Researching Social Tech Ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa

For some years now, we have been supporting social tech communities and ecosystems around sub-Saharan Africa. As a comparatively young field, research in this area is much needed to guide practice both in Africa and also inform work around the world, including the UK. We are delighted to be supporting this work alongside Comic Relief and Nominet Trust. The following text is reproduced here courtesy of the Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute. The original post can be found here.

The Madeira Interactive Technologies Institute (M-ITI) is delighted to announce that it has been commissioned to produce an ambitious piece of research on ‘Social Tech Ecosystems in sub-Saharan Africa,’ by a partnership of three key foundations making grants in the fields of social tech and international development: Comic Relief, Indigo Trust and Nominet Trust.

This major project will be supervised by Prof. Chris Csikszentmihalyi, a European Research Area Chair who has championed the field of tech and social innovation for twenty years. He will be leading an international team including expert researchers from Uganda, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Europe and North America. “M-ITI has responded to this call because of an imperative: our team has a deep desire to foster sustainable innovation in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA), but equally deep reservations about many of the innovation narratives being pushed onto the continent. We look forward to finding successful local initiatives from which to build a fruitful theory and practice of sSA-appropriate models of innovation.”

Anne Radl, Programme Development Manager at Nominet Trust, who is coordinating this project on behalf of the three funders, said: “Comic Relief, Indigo Trust and Nominet Trust are excited to embark on this rich and varied research journey with M-ITI. The scope of the research is ambitious – but it is proportionate with the huge value that will come from understanding what sustains social tech innovations across sub-Saharan Africa and allows them to thrive. We look forward to being challenged on how to support social tech ecosystems to be robust and resilient, and to reflect new insights back on the social tech ecosystem in the UK.”

This major study will span the next five months and will cover Anglophone, Francophone and Lusophone Africa in order to reflect the diversity of the continent. The methodology will involve both hands-on field work in six sub-Saharan African countries and an in-depth review of existing practices of social tech in the entire region through a peer nomination approach.

The process will be documented ‘in real time’ through a blog that will be created specifically for the project, featuring interviews, videos and analyses as the research progresses, as well as the final report when completed in April 2017.

The final report, an open source database and an interactive map of innovation actors in the region, will be disseminated to policy makers and funders of social tech and innovation in sub-Saharan Africa to foster better informed investment in social tech.

Findings from this research will also be presented at “Strategic Narratives of Technology and Africa”, a major international conference hosted at M-ITI and scheduled for September 2017, which will bring top African scholars, cultural producers, and entrepreneurs together to present and reimagine socio-technical possibilities in Africa.

This research has been commissioned by Comic Relief, Indigo Trust and Nominet Trust.