Samsung Electronics and the University of Cape Town have launched a multi-million rand partnership to develop innovative mobile phone applications in response to unique African needs.
The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Laboratory (SMILe) – Samsung’s first innovation unit in Africa – is a project that aims to increase mobile innovation and skills development. The partners in the joint venture include UCT’s Information Systems Department and the Computer Science Department as well as the Cape IT incubator, Bandwidth Barn. The lab has been launched for an initial period of three years.
Brett Loubser, product manager at Samsung South Africa, says: “We chose to partner with UCT for this exciting venture as certainly there is a clear alignment with not only corporate social responsibility programmes, but also with our visionary pillar of developing technology that is ‘Built in Africa, for Africa, by Africa’. The project also resonates with our Planet First and green innovation, given UCT’s Green Information Systems research.”
Professor Gary Marsden of Computer Science adds: “The UCT Samsung Mobile Innovation Lab has been established due to the awareness that the African continent in general, and South Africa in particular, poses unique challenges, constraints and opportunities in respect of innovative mobile applications. There is a need for a creative application development space where innovative ideas responding to these unique opportunities can be explored. Opportunities for innovative African mobile applications have been identified both in the individual user and social development markets. In addition, there is a need to move the most promising applications from prototype to commercially viable opportunities by means of a business incubator,” said Professor Marsden.
“This is the first time that a multi-disciplinary laboratory of this nature has been developed and we are committed to exploring how Samsung mobile technology might be used by African students to address technology needs within Africa.”
The laboratory is the brainchild of Professor Jean-Paul Van Belle, head of Information Systems at UCT, who says: “We are very excited at the opportunity to showcase the great innovative talent of our students. The Department of Information Systems at UCT is recognised internationally as an ideal environment for nurturing the innovation professionals of the future and we are delighted that Samsung has selected our campus as its first research partner in Africa.
“This initiative will bring together academics, practitioners and researchers to pursue innovative and meaningful research and to develop leading edge products and applications that will be relevant to Africans in improving quality of life and providing novel solutions to uniquely African needs,” said Van Belle.
General Manager of Bandwidth Barn, Chris Vermeulen adds: “Through SMILe, new mobility ideas will be developed into prototypes by senior students in the Computer Science and Information Systems departments, under the guidance of academic staff. Each year, between 10 and 20 prototype mobile applications will be developed and the most promising of these will be fast-tracked into Cape Town’s business incubator, the Bandwidth Barn, with the view to commercialise the technology. The laboratory will also provide a rich source of material for research.”