Mahikeng Innovation Hub – Children of the Revolution
The fourth industrial revolution is going to change how we do business the world over. The Mahikeng Innovation Hub will ensure South Africa especially North West Province is at the vanguard of that change.
“There’s a change coming, a change that will be felt in every aspect of business, from energy, to communications, the human resource management to logistics. The fourth industrial revolution, or 4IR as it’s become known, is a coalescence of various rapidly developing technologies and methods across a range of industries- just as the original industrial revolution was made up of a combination of new ideas from the spinning jenny to the steam engine.
This digital revolution is a complex environment technologically and strategically, with multiple shareholders and a range of possible outcomes To navigate that, this year, to ensure South Africa wasn’t left behind in this revolution, the Presidency announced a commission made up of 30 members, each representing a cross-section of stakeholders from the business, telecoms, academic and public sectors. Their objective is to coordination South Africa’s development of a national response to 4IR, forming a comprehensive action plan that will identify relevant policies, strategies and plans to competitively position the country as a global player.
One of those 30 members was Joseph Ndaba, a serial entrepreneur know throughout the innovative, technology and business development industries.
“The 4IR commission that was initiated by the President, will assist government in taking advantage of the opportunities presented by the digital industrial revolution.” To identify relevant policies, strategies and action plans that will position South Africa as a competitive global player” he tells us. “We are looking at ensuring SA effectively harnesses rapid advances in ICT for inclusive growth and social development. We’ve been deliberating on where to take the country.”
Ndaba is a good choice to help prepare South Africa for a digital future, as this is a project he’s already been working on for some time.
That’s why he founded MIHUb, the Mahikeng Innovation Hub.
“The Mahikeng Innovation Hub is our brainchild, situated in Mahikeng. Its mandate is for innovation excellence in North West Province and it promotes innovation, dealing with inter-departmental science and technology as well as training and development,” Ndaba explains. “We’ve got a lot of programmes, ranging from hackathons, boot camps, Student 2 Industry and DevCamps. We’re looking at growing e-skills and fostering a new generation of programmers.”
MIHub was conceived as an innovative co-working technohub at the heart of the capital city of North West Province – Mahikeng. Their focus is on unearthing and cultivating innovative solutions that will assist local communities, helping them acclimatise to a rapidly changing technological world while also making them a competitive force to be reckoned with.
As seamless and integrated solutions become the norm, MIHub is developing an innovative platform that will support North West Province entrepreneurs. The hub helps entrepreneurs drive their businesses with the latest technology, igniting innovative excellence and helping them build products and solutions with social and economic benefits for the region and on the global stage while giving them access to the market.
“We focus on different sectors such as Agriculture, Tourism, ICT, STEAM, Engineering, Research Development and Innovation,” Ndaba says. We’re focusing on these different areas and trying to unwind them and find out what the province is looking for. The other thing you’re looking at is the innovation support platform, helping local innovations, assisting them in how to visualise those innovations as viable businesses with training and development.”
MIHub draws its strength from the diversity of its membership and their unique cocktail of inspired ideas and innovative working methods, united by a mission to create a sustainable and positive impact.
However, while they are united and driven in their purpose, the MIHub still faces a number of challenging in bringing the digital revolution to the North West Province.
“The problem we face in terms of promoting innovation is the lack of resources and financial capabilities,” Ndaba says. “Our province is just moving into the areas of tech and innovation, so we need to find those resources, looking at funding, in terms of skills.”
The region is, mostly, a rural once, which creates a challenge for local young people wanting to launch the next big tech start-up. There is a lack of existing entrepreneurship culture, high unemployment, economic activities exclusion and not a great deal of awareness in local government about how to encourage or spark innovation and entrepreneurship culture in the region. There are also social issues including, crime, school dropout rates, drug and alcohol dependency, and poor access to credit among the local population. And those who do have innovative ideas they wish to pursue don’t have many places to look to learn about raising capital or marketing their ideas.
To overcome these challenges, Ndaba is encouraging communication and building relationships that will help inspire the next generation with both industry, government and academia.
“We are working with institutions that have formed campuses within the region,” he says. “We’ve worked with guys like Microsoft South Africa, SqwidNet, eAgroTourism Colab and North West University – Mahikeng Campus. They’re assisting us in terms of getting resources. We work a lot with the higher institutions like technical colleges. We source a lot of skills, specifically in the tech space. It’s where we tend to identify people we can work with.”
Ndaba tells us about various schemes and ideas the hub has in the pipeline, including a project to promote women in ICT, and a coding & Robotics academy.
“We’re looking forward to seeing how we can reposition the whole province, aligning ourselves with towards innovation,” he says. “We’re making sure everyone comes on board for the fourth industrial revolution. At our office we are working in terms of student programmes to be able to engage a lot with the industry. Students can present their final project to top industry figures.”
Indeed, despite, or maybe because of the challenges it presents, Ndaba clearly relishes the opportunity to promote innovation in the region.