“Social entrepreneurship is the best policy to take into account for people who live in areas with high level of poverty, little infrastructure, limited access to information and training.”
The above assumption brought together a group of young computer scientists in September of 2014 in a community called Abobo, Abidjan, Cote D’ivoire in West Africa. These young scientists saw and felt the need to provide a solution to the problem of the Abobo community which is known for its bad image in banditry, incivility, and poverty.
Baby Lab (source: Baby Lab)
With zero funds, they built a social vision by adopting the Fab Lab foundation concept to the reality of the Abobo community which is: “to provide access to the tools, the knowledge and the financial means to educate, innovate and invent using technology and digital fabrication to allow anyone to make (almost) anything, and thereby creating opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods around the world.”
They kick-started a grassroots initiative named Baby Lab to bring and engage different talents and professions in carrying out community projects around digital fabrication. Baby-Lab strives to reduce the problem of banditry and juvenile delinquency in disadvantaged communities. This will be possible by engaging the unemployed youth (who are assumed to be actively involved in these practices) and children in digital education. Baby Lab will support them with tools to create different digital products which will generate income for themselves and the Lab. “At Fab Labs lie talents, promotion of science and technology and from there may arise the next African Einstein,” Baby Lab President Obin Guiako said.
Baby Lab was implemented to put technology at the service of community development. Its goal is to create social transformation and serve as a means of socialization for the youth. They offer a workspace and resources for the realization of scientific, artistic and cultural projects.
With majority of its funds coming from grants and subsidies from the government and other organizations, Baby Lab has taken steps that have helped increase the freedom to use, create, analyze, and modify technological objects.
To start the children in their community at a young age, Baby Lab has designed a project called the “Kid Lab” which is an introduction program for computer coding, electronics, and robotics for children aged 8 to 15 to encourage and nurture the spirit of science and technology among them.
Children making innovative products at Baby Lab (source: Baby Lab)
DigiTech is a similar project aiming to equip children on information technology, coding, electronics, and robotics. At present, nearly 200 children and young people in the Abobo community have benefited from this project. This enabled them to achieve independence, logic and promote open cognitive processes while learning programming techniques and computerized structures.
The initiative also saw innovation as the peak of development and started the “Frugal Innovation Project” which involves young people in the recycling of electronic waste like old computer keyboards, furniture and works of art to make jewelries which are sold both within Ivory Coast and internationally; particularly to a museum in Japan.
Participants of Baby Lab (source: Baby Lab)
Baby Lab also introduced E-Mousso, a project designed to train local sellers on financial management in order to enable them to manage and maximize their profits.
Since its foundation, Baby Lab has been actively engaging young Ivoirians on projects that yield positive impact. Their actions have promoted citizen engagement in creating a network of trainers and volunteers from diverse backgrounds. Baby Lab aims to share its values with other regions of the world.
For Baby Lab, to grow and become a successful social entrepreneur, you must first be passionate about what you do. You must then have a clear vision of your project and make sure that it contributes effectively in solving the problem. Eventually, it should inspire others into action.