Technologists, media experts and entrepreneurs from across Afghanistan began a four-day forum and workshop today. The 2nd Kabul Innovation Lab, organized by Internews with support from USAID, will create new ways for the media to use digital and emerging technologies to reach new audiences and distribute content. The event aims to develop innovative technology-based systems to improve the media’s reach, professional standards, and quality of content.
At the opening, USAID Mission Director Ken Yamashita stated "that the Innovation Lab has created a new model for Afghanistan. This year’s Lab will explore ways in which technology can help the Afghan media to reach new and wider audiences, providing greater access to information for all Afghans.”
Also launched at today’s event was a new innovation grant initiative, $5 million over 2 years, funded by the World Bank. Innovation Lab participants were encouraged by AIMS, the grants administration agency, to develop commercially viable apps over the next four days that would then be eligible for consideration for seeding grants.
The Lab was launched with a one-day forum in which media, business, government and ICT experts brainstormed how media and technology might support one another through innovative solutions. This opening forum will be followed by an intensive three-day workshop, February 12-14, during which young Afghan software engineers and ICT experts will work in small groups to create innovative technical solutions such as apps, tools, and games for leading Afghan media agencies.
Aimal Marjan, the Director for ICT at the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MoCIT) said that “ICT has proved to be one of the tools that helps a nation to deal with some of its problems, so why not Afghanistan?” Marjan noted “great successes have been achieved in just ten years in both the ICT and media sectors, promising enormous potential for future innovation and economic growth for a country many often only associate with conflict.”
This year’s event follows last year’s highly successful pilot Lab. The first Innovation Lab examined innovative ways of using technology for social impact. Outcomes of the 2012 Kabul Lab included the design of six sophisticated prototypes that used SMS, voice interactivity, online mapping and data management to promote social and economic development in Afghanistan.
The BBC's "Click" radio program host, Gareth Mitchell interviews Afghan ICT experts and delegates at last week's 3-day Kabul Innovation Lab, January 31, 2012