One part of the TANZICT-project is the Tanzania Innovation Program, which covers our activities around the innovation space, pre-incubation, university collaboration and the TaFinn-exchange program. In the Tanzania Innovation Program we also have a mandate to explore how living labs could support communities in solving social and economic problems.
So what is a “Living Lab”? There are a lot of different definitions as you can see if you Google the term, and many of them are quite conceptual and do not make it easy to understand concretely what happens in living labs. So here’s our attempt to define it.
A “Living Lab” is a way of working together, of driving and organising innovation and collaboration between different stakeholders who share similar goals. Living Labs can be centered around one organisation which then coordinates the collaboration, or it can be a network of organisations. All the partners should both benefit and contribute. Community development is usually a big part of African Living Labs.
One of the cornerstones of Living Labs is “User-driven innovation”. Instead of the users participating only in the testing, or giving comments to the development, people using products and services drive the development of new or better products, services and social infrastructure. This usually happens in collaboration with the organisations producing the services, but the innovations can also turn into new companies. Services can also be government services, not just commercial ones, and local government organisations are very often partners in a Living Lab.
We have been meeting with different communities and universities in the past few months, and we’ve identified some potential or emerging living labs that we are planning to work with for example in Kigamboni, Iringa, Arusha, Mbeya, Morogoro and Zanzibar. Now that we have the approval from our steering committee and supervisory board for our work plan, it’s time to roll up our sleeves and start working!