Jun 05 2012

Africa’s innovators: time is now to pursue low-cost, high-ambition “moonshots”

Category: Uncategorized<ADMINNICENAME> @ 2:14 PM

This afternoon at Accra’s august Annan center for information technology, at the invitation of director-general Dorothy Gordon, I gave the keynote address for iWeek, a series of lectures, workshops and discussions about innovation in West Africa taking place this week in Ghana’s capitol. An excerpt from my prepared remarks, which emphasized the challenge of creating “indigenous innovations” in computing and communications:

“African technologists should not fall prey to the problem of thinking to small, of settling for the comfortable life of creating incremental improvements in existing platforms. Such innovations are profitable and important. They are also less risky. Platforms are useful because they provide, for a time, stable targets for the entrepreneurial energies of techno-scientists. But Africans should also selectively attempt to create what are known as “moonshots”: high-value, high-ambition technological systems. Pursuing moonshots need not to be expensive. Two people designed the original search-engine that remains the foundation of  Google’s business. In Lusaka, my good friend, Chanda Chisala, president of Zambia Online, is supporting a team of a two people to create what he’s describing, cryptically, as an African search algorithm.”

“The lesson here is that the pursuit of soaring ambitions need not costs much or even consume much time. Aim high, and fail quickly, for failures often teach more than success. Mix many conservative projects with occasional low-cost moonshots.”

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