mLab Southern Africa (SA), a new regional lab for mobile technology entrepreneurs, application developers and innovators, was launched today at The Innovation Hub in Pretoria.

The Gauteng provincial government is one of four consortium organisations hosting mLab SA. The Innovation Hub is a subsidiary of Blue IQ Investment Holdings, an agency of the Gauteng Department of Economic Development.

Blue IQ CEO Amanda Nair says  the objectives of mLab SA are in line with Blue IQ’s mandate to create an enabling environment in Gauteng for sustainable jobs and growth.

“mLab SA is a mobile applications laboratory, an innovative way to foster enterprise creation, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where entrepreneurs and programmers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to finance,” she says.

According to The Innovation Hub CEO McLean Sibanda, the location was a natural choice for the mLab SA.

“The Innovation Hub is a science park with a strong focus on innovation and is home to the Maxum Business Incubator, which can offer support services to mLab incubatees. It is also located in close proximity to the Meraka Institute, a consortium member of mLab SA and which has a strong focus on mobile development and research. It is also close to the Department of Science & Technology and government departments in Tshwane,” he says.

In South Africa, mobile penetration is around100% and 39% of urban South Africans are now browsing the internet on their phones. Mobile phones touch almost every aspect of peoples’ lives, and the potential for improving areas such as healthcare and education has already been successfully demonstrated.

But, while there exists an enormous mobile opportunity in the region, there are still challenges to creating a sustainable business or organisation in mobile.

“Competition is stiff; the mobile landscape is highly uneven across different technologies, user groups and countries; and mobile developers are scarce and expensive. Added to that, a startup business or organisation is very vulnerable. It needs business, technical and financial support, and can benefit greatly from acceleration and incubation,” says mLab SA CEO Ben Zaaiman.

mLab SA plans to include mobile government in its work.