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Technology innovation hubs and policy engagement

March 16, 2017 by Nanjira Sambuli, J. Preston Whitt

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Many technology innovation hubs are developing impactful, locally relevant civic tech solutions to pressing commercial and social issues. Given that most hubs’ ‘double bottom line’ approach to their communities and the impact they aspire to, they are faced with becoming political animals. Many of the challenges they tackle require negotiating or renegotiating power relationships, and co-creating public sector policy solutions. There is latent, but recognised, potential for tech innovation hubs in the global South to play a more overt role in promoting social change through contributing to the ‘thickening’ of local democratic space and policy co- creation. Unfortunately, in many cases, the mutual trust, understanding of incentives and shared buy-in that would facilitate this co-creation and collaboration between tech innovation hubs and public sector partners are lacking. Often, hubs avoid policy engagement altogether, or are constrained to doing so in ad hoc, superficial or premature ways. Five emerging types of engagement can be identified.