Having realized that techpreneurs in Liberia face challenges in establishing themselves, iLab set out on a journey to offer a setting that would enable them to access fast and reliable Internet, up-to-date equipment and a co-working space.
iLab Liberia was opened in May 2011 in Liberia’s capital Monrovia. It has partnered with Ushahidi Liberia, with additional support from colleagues at iHub in Nairobi and the AfriLabs Assocation, to provide 15 computer work stations, a dedicated VSAT with a C-band connection and speed of 512/1536 kbps.
John Etherton and Kate Cummings are the co-founders to this initiative. According to Cumming, Executive Director for iLab Liberia, they were tasked with deploying customized instances of Ushahidi’s mapping platform for local early warning partners, and quickly found that most partners didn’t have an adequate Internet connection or reliable power supply.
“Their computers were often full of viruses and they needed more than a few trainings in the platform,” Cummings was quoted saying.
Their main mission in Liberia is to assist IT professionals as well as organizations and institutions in their efforts to more readily share information using ICT. This, they do through trainings whose topics range from how to start your own blog to managing inconsistent power supply, which is a major problem in Liberia.
While iLab’s cousin iHub-in Kenya-concentrates on developing products and businesses, they are currently focusing on developing initial skills in ICT, considering less than 2 percent of the country have access to the internet. For this reason, iLab does not have a formal membership structure, but make the trainings and other events like IT meet-ups more accessible to the public.
Last year alone, over 450 individuals made use of the iLab. Cummings told ItWebAfrica that they are currently looking for funding to continue iLab’s growth in 2013, with an aim of keeping iLab’s trainings and events free to the public, while diversifying courses with advanced offerings that benefit experienced users.