GTC alumnus, Nicolas Friederici (pictured left) studies digital entrepreneurship and collaborative innovation in challenging environments, such as low-income and post-conflict countries in Africa. He was recently quoted in The Economist commenting on the reasons why tech and entrepreneurship incubators in Africa have found it hard to succeed. Nicolas acknowledges: "The Internet has brought new opportunities for African entrepreneurs, but these opportunities have been unevenly distributed. It is our goal to better understand the true potential of 'the digital' for the continent, and how its benefits can be made more inclusive."
Nicolas explains about his research with Mark Graham (pictured right), Professor of Internet Geography and GTC Senior Research Fellow: "In our research at the Oxford Internet Institute, we examine how opportunities of digital entrepreneurship materialize in challenging business contexts, especially African cities. Our studies probe into the hopes and ambitions that the rise of digital economies beyond Silicon Valley and Europe has inspired among development organizations, investors, policymakers, and the media. We mainly use comparative qualitative methods, such as city and organization case studies in places like Nairobi, Lagos, Kigali, Accra, and Harare. For example, we showed how coworking spaces and hubs in Africa assemble entrepreneurial communities, but also how this process is fraught with challenges. Overall, our work is a grounded explication of Africa’s economic development potentials in the 21st century, which makes it relevant for international organizations, investors, donors, and African governments."
Green Templeton has been a powerful enabler of relationships. Nicolas was a DPhil student at GTC and is now a Common Room Member for the duration of his postdoc. He convened several workshops on new organizational forms in urban entrepreneurial ecosystems (coworking spaces, innovation labs) at GTC and has had countless stimulating conversations in the Radcliffe Observatory, where he met one of his close collaborators over lunch, Tuukka Toivonen, now at UCL. Mark agrees that GTC offers a stimulating environment for world-class academic initiatives and the multinational makeup of the college means that he regularly meets people at College who live or study in Africa: "something that can be extremely helpful when you are planning your next research trip to Ghana or Nigeria."
Mark concludes: "There are now hundreds of millions of Africans who have internet access. This connectivity, in theory, allows all of those internet users the ability to trade, transact, and work with, and for, anyone anywhere. Our research aims to uncover what barriers remain, and what possibilities exist for African workers, entrepreneurs, and businesses to reach far beyond the continent in ways never before possible."