Tag: #entrepreneurs


Scaling Inclusiveness for HumTech

Four months tasked to a large project often means readjusting all kinds of perspectives, lessons learned and new/old ideas. Add to that: the email backlog and reconnecting with people. Wiping up the dust and catching up on tabled research and social innovation programmes comes with the opportunity of walking around with new eyes.

Aingel presenting
(Demo Day, January 18,2016. Photo by Irina Temnikova)

There are many models for accelerators, labs, social entrepreneurs, lean startups and hubs. The debate about whether an accelerator actually helps a business is kind of moot. Each experience is worth it for the team and, hopefully, for the individuals involved. I blame the hours of reading about business models, how to startup and innovation creation. Models, formulas, templates, schemes, and meetings are simply devices for you get something and take something away. The magic comes from us. Our Accelerator team is in review process and next steps planning. And, I am reflecting: how can I apply these experiences to humanitarian technology innovation (humtech)?

Scaling Humanitarian Technology

It is my life’s goal to help people involved in their world with technology. To make this possible, we need step ladders of engagement: to give opportunities for small tasks and big asks. We need plans to tackle the right types of questions and problems. The Qatar Computing Research Institute’s Crisis Computing team is building machine learning and human computing software to enable microtasking databits. We keep studying and improving the software and engagement. Fortunately, our allies at UN OCHA and the Standby Task Force have been core to teaching us how to we can help during large scale emergencies. We use social media, news and aerial imagery data right now. But the opportunity to consume SMS, Messaging and sensor data is huge. Each layer of data informs. True, this all hinges on access to engagement tools and the ability to speak safely. Some day each part might fit, until then, many people in the humanitarian technology fields are working hard to make small differences.

There is no one way to scale a humanitarian project. This piece by Thoughtworks and the work of Humanitarian Innovation Fund explore the question: How to scale innovation and new technology for humanitarian responses?

For the past years, I have looked from these angles:

  • Hackathons, camps, and mini-projects: Random Hacks of Kindness, Space Apps, Crisis Commons, Mozilla Humanitarian Badges
  • Social Entrepreneurship: Ushahidi
  • Non-Profits/Open Source Communities: Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Open Knowledge (School of Data), PeaceGeeks, Ushahidi, Standby Task Force, Digital Humanitarian Network
  • Accelerators and hubs: AINGEL/AIDR (QCRI), Ihub Research, Geeks without Bounds
  • Research: QCRI

There are many great ideas that never get traction or support. Today I am asking again: What does implementation look like? I keep reflecting on some of the models and ideas that we had during our Crisis Commons sprints. What if we could collaborate more and make a top ten of things that need to get built then make it happen? What if there is amazing research idea/prototype that needs ‘accelerating’ to scale? How would this happen? I think that the local hubs and accelerators around the world are very much a potential. I also think that the Civic Tech communities are core to results. But how can we include the unusual suspects and the reluctant innovators.

The Humanitarian Innovation Fund is a start, but what are some other ways that techs, researchers and creative people can actually work with practicioners to solve these questions. How can techs and others find these opportunities to contribute? I love the Linked in For Good pages and the work of Code for All, but can we widen the circle?

Share your thoughts? Maybe I will convene an adhoc skype conversation on this topic. Let me know if you would like to join.


Hungry to Learn

Education. The drive to change the economy with education is everywhere. It is a bit overwhelming and exhilarating. I’ll admit that I am a bit bias since I work at Qatar Computing Research Institute, part of Hamad bin Khalifa University, Qatar Foundation. These institutions were set up to inspire high level research and new science. Today is my one year anniversary of working within this huge organization and my 10th month of living in Doha. Time Flies.

Next week I will be co-hosting a number of technical workshops as part of Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) with Qatar Science & Technology Park. These were sold out over a week ago. As I have a small room for the class, I can’t expand it. Plus, delivering heavy topics in a room larger than 40 is not really productive for the teachers and students.


Free ideas, go build them

In the past months, I have observed such a hunger to learn in many of the residents of Qatar. Building a strong local entrepreneur ecosystem needs a step ladder and a hand. My mandate is Social Innovation with a personal goal to get people involved in technology to help humanitarian response. There are only so many hours in the week and focus means delivery.

If I had one million dollars and large facilities/networks to focus on the entrepreneurship community, I would hire someone to build these free ideas. Though, with all the super smart people around, I am sure these might already be on the roadmap:

  • More Free Technical classes (all levels) Every day, every night: The classes for GEW filled up in no time at all and with low advertising effort. The entrepreneurs keep telling me that there is a local technical gap. If the economy needs more technical entrepreneurship and people have a hunger to learn, then it follows that this type of programme will help seed the future.
  • QNCC for large technical event: If Qatar can bring universities here, what about making Doha a tech destination for a large technical event? The ideal event would have many hands-on workshops, a trade fair, and large company demos (Docker I am looking at you). Most years I attend OCSCON with 5000 of my tribe. There is nothing like an influx of talent to learn and inspire.
  • Tech Hubs, Labs and Coworking spaces: Everywhere I have traveled these casual spaces make for interchange of ideas and brillant outcomes. Truly, I have no place that I can go on a Saturday, geek out with other geeks and flop on a couch debating the latest tech thing. While it might sound fluffy, it works. Just make sure there is excellent coffee and snacks.

Now, I’m going back to work on my proposal for encouraging Humanitarian Technology in MENA. We all have our passions. And, I can only hope that our thirst to learn and create helps a people build something useful for their community and neighours.

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