TANZICT’s TaFinn Knowledge Exchange -program supports research- and knowledge-exchange trips for Tanzanian and Finnish academics, key stakeholders and ICT innovators. First two TaFinn trips were for government organisations, and the most recent trip in November 2013 was targeted for universities. The participants were selected through an open call, and each university was allowed to propose two participants.
The goal of the trip was to initiate partnerships and collaboration between Finnish and Tanzanian Universities and to find approaches that could be implemented to organizations and schools around Tanzania. TANZICT composed a program based on the wishes of the participants. The participants could also organize their own meetings for some or part of the time. There were total of eight participants coming from Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, The State University of Zanzibar, University of Dar es Salaam, University of Iringa and Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology.
After landing to cold Helsinki on Sunday afternoon, group headed straight towards Tampere, about 300 kilometres from Helsinki.
The first meeting in Tampere was a joint one with University of Tampere UTA, Tampere University of Technology TUT and Tampere University of Applied Science TAMK. The three universities do active collaboration and have several joint projects and initiatives. Examples of presented project and research topics were Human-Technology interaction, Learning Technologies, Innovation Studies and Machine Learning. In the discussion there were several joint areas of interest between hosts and guest and Learning Technologies was probably the area which generated most interest. After a working lunch we visited TALLI which works to develop viable business ideas while supporting startup companies around the research at Tampere University of Technology.
The last visit in Tampere was to the New Factory, which hosts several organisations and programmes on entrepreneurship. ProAcademy is the Unit of Entrepreneurship at TAMK. Two final year students and their team coach described the program and their learning by doing approach to entrepreneurship. There was a lot to discuss, and especially the confidence and great presentation skills of the students really impressed our group.
After Proacademy we went one floor down to Demola, and learned about their concept which concentrates on cross-disciplinary projects and university-industry collaboration. Demola has already a Global network although none in Africa, and we discussed adaptation possibilities to Tanzania.
At 4PM in the darkness, we started our trip from Tampere to Jyväskylä.
In Jyväskylä we had two days for the visits. First meeting was with JAMK University of Applied Sciences International Department. There we focused on different possibilities for joint projects, courses and programs in Finland and Tanzania. Joint interests were found immediately and we have already had followup email discussions on how to take them forward. The first collaboration will be around problem-based learning and blended learning approaches, and specifically there will be some joint courses in ICT in business, Global growth strategies and International Marketing.
Agora emphasizes a multi-disciplinary, human-centered approach to information technology and to the future knowledge society, where research, education and enterprise are integrated into one functional whole.
We also tested GraphoGame, a game designed to teach small children to read, also in Swahili! It has been developed by the Niilo Mäki Institute which is one of the partners of Agora Center and it has already being tested in Tanzania.
Last meeting for Tuesday was again with JAMK University of Applied Sciences but this time with their ICT-department. We discussed their curriculum structure and how they aim for students have as much practical experience as possible for their future working life, to raise their performance and profile on the job markets. They use problem-based learning, and provide so much possibilities for students to learn through projects that in practise half of their studies are done through projects.
One of their projects is JYVSECTEC, a R&D project where the focus is in information security technology. The project has also several private sector partners. We also visited the Cyber Security Control Room of JYVSECTEC. It is an environment where companies, organizations and military officials can come to test their software against the attacks. They use real life-like environment as much as possible with real life attack malware, with the only difference that the setting is completely isolated from the “real world” internet. This way even if the cyber-attack is successful the data won´t be lost abroad or possible hostile organizations around the globe. Very impressive indeed!
We ended our first day in Jyväskylä for joint dinner with some people from Agora Center and JAMK to continue the discussions and to prepare for the next day.
In the morning we headed for Tiimiakatemia/TeamAcademy, which is the special unit of entrepreneurship and business development, operating as the Center of Excellence of the JAMK University of Applied Sciences. In TeamAcademy, students work and learn in team companies consisting of 15-20 people. The model is very similar to the one in ProAcademy. Biggest difference is that TeamAcademy is 3,5 years long and students apply directly to the program. In ProAkatemia, the length is 2,5 years and students are accepted to the program after one year of study in either Business Administration or ICT. In both programs the focus is in learning-by-doing approach which is supported by professional team coaches.
We had a chance to listen to the final presentations of the 24-hour challenge, which is a practical end exam to the final year team companies. The team company received two assignments from real clients, and had 24 hours to come up with solutions and recommendations which they then presented to the whole TeamAcademy.
During lunch we met with Technopolis and discussed their Business/Science Park concept. Technopolis is currently biggest company in the Nordic countries to provide this kind of services.
The last visit in Jyväskylä was Protomo which is business incubator supporting various startups especially in ICT sector. Protomo concept has been developed in the recent years to combine people from different work and educational backgrounds in Jyväskylä region under one incubator and acceleration program.
By this point everyone was beginning to understand the saying “Finland is not a country but a club” – same concepts came up from different organisations, people in one place want to check we had visited the other ones, everyone is involved in collaborative projects, etc. And of course everyone had realised that Finns drink a lot of coffee!
We started early in Helsinki where we arrived late on Wednesday afternoon straight from Jyväskylä. In Helsinki area our visits were strongly focused around the biggest university in Finland, the “spearhead” of them all, Aalto University. Aalto is a fairly new university which was created in 2010 by merger of the Helsinki School of Economics, Helsinki University of Technology and the University of Art and Design Helsinki. Nowadays there are also plenty of different business incubator programs and “testbeds” for ideas, companies and products generated around Aalto.
AppCampus is focused to provide funding, business development support and state of the art environment for game and app developers in Windows Phone environment. AppCampus activities and facilities included quiet rooms, variety of spaces for small meetings and idea generation, lounges and also one room dedicated to “Anger Management” crowded by Angry Birds.
Aalto Center for Entrepreneurship aims to commercialize research which originates from Aalto University. They do have a dedicated person in every department of the university.
The aim of the Helsinki Node of EICT ICT is to be an active thought leader in setting the Finnish agenda for future ICT concentrating on the following areas:
- Enabling Mobile Data Expansion
- Smart Spaces and Ubiquitous Interaction
- Green ICT for Ecological Sustainability
- Big Data and Service Design & Engineering
- Games and Gamification
- ICT for Well-Being and Active Aging
The three core partners of the Helsinki Node are Aalto University, Nokia, and VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland. Eleven affiliated partners include universities and research institutes, and other key actors of the Finnish ICT innovation system. They also coordinate PhD-programs and other activities through global network.
Our next was Startup Sauna, a non-profit organization for startups and aspiring entrepreneurs in Northern and eastern Europe and Russia. It is run by it’s own foundation but it has started from the student activities of Aalto University. Their aim is to implement startup ecosystem and a pay-it-forward culture into the region in order to make it the best place to run a startup companies. We met our old friend Mr. Aape Pohjavirta who first talked about Startup Sauna and then gave us a great, inspiring presentation about the future of startup scene in East Africa. His main statement was that “We need a lot of new jobs that are created in new companies founded by people that are supported by their society – and we should start where the population grows. Tanzania.” Aape’s wicked performance was very cool way to give new insights to all of us regarding the future of Tanzania and to see that strong will with revolutionary way thinking is a possibility not to be missed.
Thursday’s last meeting was with the Department of Communications and Networking of Aalto. The theme of the discussions was to understand better how multi-disciplinary approach can benefit the development of technological solutions and how they can be utilized also in emerging markets such as East Africa. We continued with the discussions about joint interests and projects for the future activities and had also possibility to see some of their demos and labs.
Friday morning we went to visit Aalto University School of Business and Economics and meet people from Aalto Global Impact and Aalto School of Arts Design and Architecture at the same time. They have been working with cross-disciplinary programs around surroundings, housing and city planning. Some of their projects have been implemented in Tanzania and Kenya which can work as a link for future co-operation.
On Friday we met with representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Finland while getting introduced to the Higher Education Institutions Institutional Cooperation Instrument (HEI ICI), which supports collaboration projects between higher education institutions in Finland and in developing countries. The program seeks to enhance higher education capacity in the developing world.
Our last visit was in Aalto Design Factory, which was opened in 2008. Design Factory is “the symbiosis of the state-of-the-art conceptual thinking and cross-disciplinary hands-on doing”. There we met with Ms Tuula Antola, who is currently the Director of Economic and Business Development in the City of Espoo. She described very well how the local governance can support the companies which are trying to find suitable locations for their operations, by presenting the strengths and opportunities of Espoo.
Ms. Pia Erkinheimo continued with the theme by presenting FORGE Service Lab, which is a laboratory for creating digital services in the Internet-era. It is intended as a tool to accelerate the creation of digital services in Finland. Last but not least our old friend Ms. Minna Takala asked us to think about how the university collaboration will actually be put in motion. Working a bit on that was a nice way to conclude the visit.
Now we are all back, and it is time to plan how to take things forward and turn them into concrete actions. The participants are currently working on their trip reports and plans on collaboration. Once they are ready we will sit down together and see what is the role of TANZICT in supporting them, or do the universities continue bilaterally onwards.