netLabs! Uganda (netLabs!UG) is a research Centre of Excellence (CoE) in telecommunications and networking technologies who had its origins in the Community Wireless Resource Centre (CWRC), Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, College of Engineering, Design, Art and Technology (CEDAT) at Makerere University. netLabs!UG is an alternative Research and Development (R&D) model which will strive to achieve a balanced critical mass of basic research, applied research and commercialisation.
As the world of technology enters the next transformative stage with the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Intelligence (AugI) and a new Internet based on elastic network to complement the elastic compute that already exists, it is essential that Uganda maintains an R&D centre that supports academic development and assists commercial interests.
Innovation is core to the research activities of netLabs!UG and as the CoE develops it will be designed into the research process. Research funding programmes should emphasise innovation as well as research and as such netLabs!UG is happy to support this two strand approach to put Uganda and East Africa at the centre of development and innovation in this very important sector. Commercialisation of these innovations as well as commercial research support of local telecommunications and networking business, thereby enhance their solutions, driving efficiencies and ultimately benefiting the local economy is an essential output of netLabs!UG.
Ideas for innovation can originate anywhere. It is not necessary that all ideas are created originally within Uganda. netLabs!UG will leverage knowledge that is already in the public domain, such as Open Source. Thus for a developing country like Uganda a strategy to promote research with a bias towards an applied research centred policy rather than very basic research makes sense. However this being said, such promotion cannot be at the total expense of basic research, a proper balance is necessary for a healthy system of innovation. The innovation and research will also serve the demands of the local market in East Africa. This approach can be a significant cost saver for multinationals wishing to locate facilities in the region.
Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) are the backbone of an economy and therefore Uganda requires a strategy to develop a strong indigenous industry sector in parallel to a strategy to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). netLabs!UG aims to support SMEs in the networking technology sector as well as developing a capacity to assist international organisations who wish to invest in Uganda.
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