Originally published at re-publica.com/en/15/news/global-innovation-gathering-rp15-review

The GIG Maker Space was very popular at re:publica. All different kinds of things were built throughout the 3 days; photo: re:publica/Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0)

“As GIG and re:publica come to a close, we have nothing more than appreciation for a rewarding and intense experience.” Ahmed Mohamed Maawy

Ahmed was one of 70 participants from 47 tech hubs out of 24 countries, that gathered at this year’s Global Innovation Gathering (GIG). He captured in words what all of us feel. The third gathering was the biggest and most successful one so far. Despite the diverse programme on the #rp15 stages and the Maker Space, all sorts of different cooperations were established between the individuals. These were planned prior to the re:publica kick-off during a two-day barcamp and a tour through Berlin’s hubs.

With the GIG Maker Space in Hall 3 as our centre, the GIGers took to the stages and convinced the audience with 14 outstanding presentations and panel discussions throughout the conference.

GIG-makers at the  “Light Up Your Clothes” Workshop; photo: re:publica/Jan Zappner (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Alfredo Brillembourg of Urban Think Tank, a research and design lab concerned with contemporary architecture and urbanism, presented his findings and led a discussion with three African innovation hub leaders, Jon Stever, Managing Director at The Office from Rwanda, Ricardo Ruiz Freire, Project Coordinator at InCiti / UFPE from Brazil, and Adam Molyneux-Berry, co-founder of iceCairo from Egypt. The core question was how to achieve community involvement to make sure the city serves the needs of all its inhabitants.

Bilal Ghalib, tech catalyst at GEMSI, works in the Middle East on open source culture. He believes it is time for all the Hackerspaces, iHubs, FabLabs and Maker Spaces of the world to put down their tools, stop writing grant proposals, and instead start asking questions like: “What should we make?” and “Where are we going?” In his talk, “Don’t change the world, sing with the universe“, he takes a surprising approach.

How technology helps communities to become literate was the topic of the session by Markos Lemma, co-founder of iceAddis. His team is working with children in a remote part of Ethiopia. The way in which kids learn teaches them what might be the future of education, and they are working on minimizing the digital divide by enabling children and their parents to read using tablets.

The presentation on “10 Things Europe can learn from Kenya” had the biggest impact on Twitter. The three speakers, Martha Chumo, founder of the Nairobi Dev School, Sheilah Birgen, community lead at m:Lab East Africa, and Mugethi Gitau, agreed that it’s about time that Europe takes note of what’s happening down south and learns a few lessons about digital innovation in everyday situations:

Another lively debate centred on Digital Innovation and Peacekeeping. Aphrodice MutanganaSanjana Hattotuwa, and Almut Wieland-Karimi, Director at the Center for International Peace Operations (ZIF), hosted a discussion on how digital media and technological innovation can support post-conflict peacekeeping, and at the same time augment strategies that allow more effective community development, empowering the victims of conflict and strengthening the difficult process of peace-building.

There were also numerous insights from Egypt, Palestine, Columbia and Indonesia about Creating Open Spaces for Innovation around the world. While Europe has led the way in the development of a wide range of co-working and innovation spaces in the last decade, alternative work and life concepts have transcended continents. What part can hacker spaces and co-working spaces play in countries which are already struggling with socioeconomic and political challenges, was a question discussed by the panelists.

The challenges and ethics of big data use in development contexts were tackled in a lively discussion with Zara Rahman, Sheilah Birgen, Nanjira Sambuli, research manager at iHub Research and David Deissner, Director of Strategy at the Vodafone Institute. What say do citizens have when it comes to the reuse of their anonymized or personalized data for a greater good?

Sheila Birgen and David Deissner during the panel “Big Problems, Big Data, Little Privavy”; photo: re:publica/Gregor Fischer (CC BY-SA 2.0).

And finally, in our last panel discussion at this year’s re:publica, the Global Innovation Gathering crew challenged the concept of Europe with a decidedly non-western perspective on the European role within the international digital economy. Amongst other things, we asked: “In what ways do Europe’s digital hubs try to connect to the rest of the world?” And “How are physical travel and visa issues making it hard to engage in business activities for start-ups and entrepreneurs?”

The GIG Maker Space had a remarkable daily program. re:publica visitors could experiment with LEDs sewed into clothing, stick them to the ceiling as digital graffiti, build Android apps, construct a solar-powered DIY phone charger, and much more. And the caffeinator kept us fresh, up and running throughout the three days of the festival.

However, this was only a fraction of the global insights that were inspired by the GIG community at this year’s re:publica. You can find out more on our website, which will be updated regularly. Or watch some of the talks here.


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