Innovation and technology for Mozambique: the “Emerging African Innovation Leaders” initiative advances in the country

Martina Bolognesi, Communication Officer at AICS Maputo

Do you remember when we talked about the “Emerging African Innovation Leaders” initiative? The project was launched in 2018 by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation together with two of the most prestigious technical universities in Italy, Politecnico di Milano and Politecnico di Torino. Its objective being to accompany the embracement of the Next Production Revolution (NPR) in selected African countries (Tunisia, Niger, Nigeria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Mozambique), the initiative allowed 21 selected “innovation brokers” to participate in training sessions covering a wide range of topics connected to the NPR. Digital technologies, new materials and new processes constitute the main pillars around which the NPR will supposedly take place, with a positive impact for the growth of developing countries.

Our Mozambican participants, together with other innovator brokers coming from all over the African continent, took part in the first training session at the Business School of Politecnico di Milano in September/October 2018. In January 2019, the participants came back to their country of origin and supported the creation of a new generation of African innovation leaders through workshop, training sessions and exchange of experiences: the objective was to forge a new generation of trained professionals to enable the NPR in each country. In May 2019, the 22 innovation brokers travelled back to Italy to attend the second part of the in-person training, during which they had the chance to participate in EXCO2019 - the international development cooperation trade with a focus on innovation and sustainable development.

Another key component of the “Emerging African Innovation Leaders” initiative is a digital platform used to exchange ideas and facilitate e-sharing and e-cooperation among innovators, the African Innovation Cradle, created with the support of Italian startup and enterprises.

After the in-person and online training sessions, our four Innovation Brokers worked and developed an innovative project for Mozambique. Their idea, developed by the four of them through the various training sessions, was presented during the “Mozambique Innovation Day” which took place on June, the 10th at E. Mondlane University in Maputo.

Lucia, Fernando, Claudio and Lourino – the four Mozambican Innovation Leaders, displayed their project at the presence of the Italian Ambassador in Mozambique, Marco Conticelli, the Head of the Italian Agency for Develpment Cooperation in Maputo, Fabio Melloni, as well as Government Officials and representatives from UN Agencies and local universities. The “Smart ecosystem for technology and knowledge growth in manufacturing” is a very ambitious initiative, its aim being the expansion of the fiber-optic internet network existing in Mozambique, called MoRENet. According to our innovation brokers, the expansion of MoRENet coverage in the country would be essential to ensure knowledge transfer from global industry leaders to Mozambican talents. In fact, the expansion of MoRENet paired with the conception and implementation of new tools to ensure technology and education transfer (like online classes and workshops) could support the creation of a highly skilled workforce. This new generation of trained workers is essential for the development of the country for those sectors driving Mozambique growth, like oil and gas, which could represent a significant catalyst for the country’s economy in future years. In fact, the recent discovery from the Italian ENI of a giant gas reserve in the Rovuma basin offshore northern Mozambique represents a precious opportunity. In order to accompany and embrace this opportunity of growth, Mozambican workforce should be technically prepared: the expansion of MoRENet and the realization of digital training and immediate knowledge transfer could play a vital role in a country whose area go beyond 800.000 km2.

We wish our Mozambican Innovation Brokers the greatest luck, and we will keep you posted about the development of this innovative project, putting together education, avant-garde technologies and the strong desire to contribute to Mozambique’s inclusive and sustainable growth.

 

 

Universal design and assistive technologies for persons with disabilities: the Italian Cooperation partners with Mozambique to explore innovative solutions and tackle the digital divide

Martina Bolognesi, Communication Officer at AICS Maputo

The Maputo Office of the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, together with the National Institute for the Electronic Government of Mozambique, Eduardo Mondlane University and Oslo Metropolitan University, has recently organized an international conference on Universal Design and Assistive Information and Communication Technologies for the Inclusion of persons with disabilities in Mozambique. The conference had the ambition to share international best practices, take stock of the legal and policy framework and identify opportunities to enhance the social and economic inclusion of persons with disabilities in Mozambique, through access to ICTs. It was the first conference ever held in the African country on these themes.

Estimates suggest that around 80% of persons with disability live in developing countries, where their condition is often associated with poverty, exclusion and marginalization. Access to ICTs offers incredible opportunities for economic and social inclusion, having the potential to make significant improvements in the everyday life of persons with disabilities. Universal design allows re thinking and re shaping technologies with a new design that takes into consideration human diversity, progressively eliminating barriers to accessibility and usability faced by all kind of users. At the same time, assistive technologies represent key tools for persons with disabilities to achieve more independence and wellbeing, allowing for tailor made solutions enhancing their effective inclusion.

Low income, low human capital countries like Mozambique face huge challenges in ICTs accessibility and use, while access to ICTs is particularly challenging in remote areas and for disadvantaged and vulnerable groups including women and girls, old people and persons with disabilities. Recent legal and policy reforms (including the Telecommunications Law approved in 2016 and the Information Society Policy 2018) are opening new opportunities for universal access to ICTs in Mozambique. However, no specific ICTs accessibility data are produced regarding persons with disabilities, which represent 2,6% of the total population according to the last census (2017), while only 26,4% of Mozambicans owns a cell phone and 6,6% has regular access to internet.

Bringing together representatives from the Government, the National Commission for Human Rights, academics, innovators, activists and DPOs, local and international civil society organizations, inclusive media groups and the private sector, the conference has contributed to raise awareness on the status of digital inclusion of persons with disabilities in Mozambique, exploring policy reforms options and innovative solutions to bridge the digital divide. Amongst key results, participants have agreed on the importance of creating an informal multistakeholder group which will take forward the policy discussions: besides advocating for more inclusive legal and regulatory reforms, the group aims at feeding into the new Government planning cycle and to the definition of ICTs accessibility and usability results monitoring frameworks in key sectors.

The conference was held on November 12th, 2019 in parallel with a 72 hour-Hackathon taking place at Eduardo Mondlane University and bringing together innovators and developers working on digital solutions (websites or app) to promote the access of persons with disabilities to vocational training and professional opportunities. Winners of the competition have been awarded with a monetary prize, and the winning solutions will be developed and adopted in the framework of a pilot project financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, focusing on access to vocational training and employment for young persons with disability in Mozambique.