The German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the Ghana Digital Centres Limited (GDCL) have launched a tertiary digital initiative to help tertiary graduates to turn their research projects into viable businesses.
The initiative, dubbed “Tertiary Digital Innovation Programme (TDIP)”, will select and support graduates and those on the verge of completing a university who have developed a concept for a technology startup they desire to pursue.
The participants are expected to be from the University of Ghana (UG), the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), the Ghana Communication and Technology University (GCTU) and the Academic City University College (ACUC).
The launch of the initiative was part of commemorative activities for the GDCL’s fifth anniversary celebration.
The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of GDCL, Kwadwo Baah Agyemang, said the initiative was designed to foster digital innovation and entrepreneurship by providing support for tertiary students and graduates to grow technology-driven projects and research works into innovative startups that addressed national developmental challenges.
He noted that applicants who were eligible for the programme should have a concept or a technology-enabled startup that had the potential to contribute to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations and have two to three co-founders with a passion to develop their idea.
Successful applicants, Mr Agyemang said, would be engaged by GDCL to enable them to develop their innovations during the mandatory national service period with the centre.
He stated that the graduates would be provided with an additional six-months of support to assist with the development of their businesses.
To ensure inclusivity, the CEO explained that the programme would target at least 30 per cent female participation.
The TDIP initiative would run for an 18-month period and help participants to build viable business models, product prototypes, market testing and a full launch plan.
The programme, Mr Agyemang indicated, sought to create over 500 digital entrepreneurs by 2024 with collaboration with its stakeholders, the government, academia, the private sector and development partners.
The Minister of Communications and Digitalisation, Mrs Ursula Owusu-Ekuful, said since its inception, the Accra Digital Centre had boosted job creation with over 5,000 direct and indirect jobs.
That, she said, had enhanced the drive for knowledge-led socio-economic growth, as well as information and communication technology (ICT) skills for self-sufficiency.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said the ministry, through funding from the World Bank, had set up an Innovation Centre at the Accra Digital Centre made up of an Innovation Hub (iHub) and a mobile applications laboratory (mLab) under the innovation module of the eTransform Ghana Project.
Those projects, the minister explained, supported rapid prototyping of ideas, seeding digital innovations, targeted business incubation and acceleration programmes in the digital industries, while mitigating some challenges identified within the country’s technology ecosystem.
Mrs Owusu-Ekuful said as part of the GDCL’s focus on strategic pillars, it intended to set up a Ghana Digital Innovation Fund that would provide the initial investments ranging from proof-of-concept grants to seed investment to innovators.
That, she said, would unlock more investment capital for digital and technology-based startups and small and medium enterprises in the country.
“Government, through its partnership with MTN and the World Bank, is working earnestly to ramp up the reach of GDCL and its activities by expanding it with a state-of-the-art and futuristic infrastructure, as well as retooling the Regional Innovation Centres across the country into mini-tech hubs,” Mrs Owusu-Ekuful stated.
Those initiatives, she said, formed part of government’s efforts to bridge the digital divide to ensure that the Ghanaian youth had access to the digital skills and jobs wherever they were.