African web entrepreneurs rarely receive the support they need, but a foundation training program is helping Ghanaians put their mark on the web.
Step aside, Silicon Valley and Bangalore. A group of aspiring web entrepreneurs in Ghana are looking to turn Accra into the newest startup hub. The nonprofit World Wide Web Foundation is working with local developers through a training program called Mobile Web Ghana to give participants the business and technology skills they need to leverage ideas into successful mobile web companies.
The program kicks off its second training session today, and graduates from the first session in February have already produced 10 different mobile products. The new ventures range from the socially conscious—like Mobi-Reportabuse, a reporting service for domestic violence victims—to the commercial, including sites for selling event tickets and sharing song files with friends over the phone.
"For most people in Africa, the only possibility of accessing the Web is through their mobile phone," World Wide Web Foundation CEO Steve Bratt says. "So a web entrepreneur must learn to design services that will work on even the simplest mobile devices." While the entrepreneurs created their first round of apps in English, Bratt says he hopes to see future services created in local languages.
While mobile phones have become ubiquitous in Ghana and other African countries, very few programs and apps cater to local communities, and securing seed money is difficult. The Web Foundation, whose mission is to "promote the Web as an agent of human empowerment," is spending a million dollars over three years to lay the groundwork in Ghana and expanding to Nairobi, where they recently launched a sister program, mLab East Africa, to work with Kenyan entrepreneurs.
"Working with entrepreneurs in Africa is simply fantastic," Bratt says. "I believe that in this region of enthusiastic young people, scare resources and dire needs, the creativity of entrepreneurs like those emerging from our program will produce applications of both local and global importance."
photo courtesy the World Wide Web Foundation