The Outsize Role of Tech Incubators

iHubThe outward signs of increased connectivity in developing countries are hard to miss. Even in cities with relatively recent connectivity, it is common to see swarms of smartphone-toting 19-year-olds taking selfies.

Often, however, there is more consequential activity taking place behind the scenes.

One such activity is the emergence of tech incubators in larger cities. Modeled after co-working spaces in the US or Europe, the new tech hubs, such as Nairobi Garage in Kenya or BongoHive in Zambia, provide the space and tools that entrepreneurs require. They also provide an immediate and invaluable source of community to help with collaboration, training, and promoting innovation.

I’m currently working from Phandeeyar, a tech incubator in downtown Yangon. I feel right at home. There are tables of young techies working on startups. The conference rooms include whiteboards covered with unintelligible flowcharts. The kitchen area boasts unlimited coffee. The ping pong table appears to get a lot of use.

Best of all, membership is $25 / week — about 10% what I would pay in the US. lists co-working spaces in 125 countries – and growing! Co-working spaces represent a mostly hidden, but very consequential, form of tech infrastructure in developing countries.

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