SWARM is an annual summit conceived by the Hive Colab, the first hub in Uganda, in partnership with several other ICT and startup stakeholders in Uganda. The inaugural Summit was held in December 2016 at Hive Colab, however, this year's is set to take place at The Square place in Industrial - a much bigger place.
Last year, the event gathered Ugandan startup founders and tech enthusiasts, and the main intention was to carve out Uganda's digital future. Something they're looking to build on this year.
The minister of ICT, Frank Tumwebaze, Martin Ssekajja from KCCA and Albert Mucunguzi from ICTAU were some of the speakers at the summit.
This year, the event will take place on the 7th and 8th of December with sponsors including Andela, Dignited, Fenix International, MTN, and SEACOM.
At the very event, Startup Digest Africa will be on the media panel discussing the top events that defined the Ugandan startup landscape this year, as well as what to expect next year. Additionally, Startup Digest Africa shall reveal a ranking of the top 10 startups in Uganda for the year 2017 at the same event.
Some of the key speakers for this year's event include TMS Ruge, Albert Mucunguzi, James Saaka, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze, Vivian Ndambya, Barbara Birungi and others.
You can find additional details about the event's activities here.
Below is the original article which features details of a conversation with TMS Ruge about the event. Please note that some things may have changed since the last time we spoke to him in July this year.
Asked about any progress from last year's event, TMS Ruge admitted that there hadn't been much implemented from the previous Swarm discussions except the ICT Certification Bill which was passed quietly. He made it clear that this was passed, but he was against the idea.
You don't need a mandatory certification body when the industry itself has industry certifications. There is Microsoft, Oracle and other programming certifications that one can go through. I have never heard anywhere in the world where the government says we have succeeded because our industry has programmers that are certified - TMS Ruge
He felt there were, and still are, more urgent issues to be addressed. Issues like lowering the cost of internet data so that developers can spend more time online working on their craft or actually enable the clients of these developers to come and stay online.
However, TMS Ruge concludes, that this is common of all arrangements that involve the government as a stakeholder. He says that they are usually so desperate to seem authoritative and in the end, they don't consult but end up telling people to do this and that.
Swarm is going to be spread out to all the hubs across the country. Each hub is going to be a co-organizer or a participant. Hive Colab did launch the initial Swarm but, according to TMS Ruge, it'd be better if the entire ecosystem participated starting with this one. All the hubs have been invited to participate this years.
We are not looking to own the event. We are looking to get collaboration from all stakeholders in the ecosystem - TMS Ruge
TMS Ruge believes that whether you're Innovation Village, Outbox, a startup founder or any other stakeholders in the ecosystem you are facing almost the same challenges. Therefore, it is better that everyone comes together and we shape the future of the ecosystem on a united front.
This is one of the latest efforts from TMS Ruge to see that everyone is leveraging another rather than working on their own. In order to further enforce unity as opposed to a one man show, the event is to be moved from Hive Colab (which can no longer accommodate the audience) to the much larger The Square Place in the industrial area.
For 2017, expect a feature of a list of various startups that are so far performing well in the Ugandan startup ecosystem. This is aimed at helping those that would like to invest in these startups easily identify them as well as show the world what is happening in the country. The list of speakers and key participants is yet to be communicated.
However much TMS Ruge preaches a united ecosystem, he also believes that a healthy competition is necessary to keep everyone thinking and innovating. He mentions the fact that when they launched Hive Colab as the very first hub in Uganda, their intention was to have various Hive Colabs replicated across the country.
Though, financial challenges wouldn't allow them achieve that goal. Yet with the mushrooming of various hubs and innovation centers, TMS Ruge is more than happy that what he thought they would do is actually being done by others.
He also believes that with different players on the scene, new and diverse ideas are brought on board.
Ministry of ICT Innovation Hub Plans
As we concluded our conversation, we talked about why the government finally decided to build its own innovation hub instead of joining forces with the already existing hubs.
When asked whether the government detected that there was no unity amongst the already existing stakeholders, TMS Ruge refuted the claim. He instead pointed out that Hon. Frank Tumwebaze made visits to almost all Innovation hubs around Kampala and actually saw that they visit each other.
TMS Ruge blamed this decision by the ministry on the fact that the government doesn't consult but rather just dictates. For example, instead of the officials consulting and listening to the existing players on whether they needed to set up a parallel hub, they just asked them how they can also set up one.
In conclusion, TMS Ruge said that however much our ecosystem is still young that almost any idea is valid, the government is making a wrong move on this one.
Currently, Swarm is still operating on a local scale. But that's not the end goal. The end goal is to turn Kampala into an international destination for the top Angel Investors, Venture Capitalists, Mentors, Startup founders, policy makers as well as serial entrepreneurs from across the globe.
The date for the event is expected to be maintained. So, the expectation is that every 8th of December, one is looking up-to Kampala.
As we concluded our argument, we both agreed that this has been long in the waiting. The organisation of the event is still under way but we shall keep you up-to-date with all the proceedings.