Global Innovation Gathering 2015

Ricardo Ruiz
17 min readDec 20, 2018


GiG:Who was there?

Around 30 hubs from Africa were present, including the large majority of the Afrilabs members. These hubs include around 40% co-working spaces, 40% hacker and maker spaces and 20% accelerators and incubators like CTIC Dakar. There was also participants from Indonesia, Colombia, Brazil, Singapore, Eastern and Western Europe and United States. During six days, 45 people shared information and ideas on their initiatives around the world. The first phase of the meeting was the Global Innovation Gathering — GIG, that happens once a year, alongside re:publica festival, to bring to the light initiatives on sustainable development on economics, computers science and society around the world.

I was invited by Olabi Maker Space- Rio de Janeiro, founded by it´s partnership with Ford Foundation, mainly because of the Sensible Cities Laboratories — LabCEUs, project I´ve been developping in Federal University of Pernambuco with the support of Ministry of Culture of Brazil, that took part in many of the described actions bellow.

The ZK/U space

The first two days of the meeting took part at ZK/U — The Center for Arts and Urbanistics, located in Moabit.!1m14!1m8!1m3!1d9707.053653867299!2d13.328979272430413!3d52.537714592997226!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x0%3A0xbfd0e8c6c0336115!2sZK%2FU+(Zentrum+f%C3%BCr+Kunst+und+Urbanistik)!5e0!3m2!1spt-BR!2sbr!4v1431448226853&w=600&h=450

The gardens of the space are full of urban furniture developed by the community in the space, during workshops or residencies:

The space is located in an old train station, and is very notable for it’s hugeness. Among the participants of the space, you can notice the neighborhood, that uses specially the gardens of the space as a weekend visiting point.

ZK/U — Center for Art and Urbanistics

Meetings at ZK/U

The meetings were headed as an Open Bar Camp methodology — BarCamp is an international network of user-generated conferences primarily focused around technology and the web. They are open, participatory workshop-events, the content of which is provided by participants. Some of the panels were suggested by mail prior to the event. Some of the panels were proposed on the day of the meeting. I took part on three discussions, as below:

Talks on public policies on technologies, privacy and society (mustafa and first one)

The first and the last talk I took part was on Public Policies. On the first, we analyzed the development and spread on policies on community innovations, free software into governments, and political lobby agencies ongoing on the globe. On the second, proposed by Mustafa, from Pakistan, we were focused on big data analyzes and uses, and the differences on perception of democracy and big data in different parts of the globe: The Netherlands, Germany, Brazil, United Kingdom, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Talks on rural technologies in Africa

I also took part on a meeting about rural communities and digital technologies. It’s possible to perceive the main challenges on this issue: infrastructure, many different languages, resistance on use of new technologies, specificities on local agriculture process vs. digital massification technologies. One thing is important to notice: the new market to be conquered is Africa. Many are the issues direct or indirect addressed to this.


We were also invited by the GIG crew members to take part in different visits to Hub or Maker Spaces around Berlin. Gonna draw some points about the initiatives I was able to visit:


Art, music, design, food, urban — and street art — STATTBADis not only a unique location, but also an international venue of an interdisciplinary dialogue between the different forms of contemporary culture.


Designed by the architect Ludwig Hoffmann and built in 1907, the building was severely damaged during World War II, and rebuilt in the 1960s. After closure of the public bathing compound in 2001, (the swimming poll has 23 meter long, what makes the use of it for training virtually impossible) the former state swimming pool was finally reopened as a cultural hub — Stadtbad Wedding turned into STATTBAD.

With its small and large pools, partially existing locker rooms and prominent boiler room, the building complex is not only shaped by the aesthetics of the sixties but radiates an archaic as well as post-modern charm. The creative correlation between art and music is reflected by the multi-variant program and its diverse range, but also through several artists, designers and musicians that use studios, ateliers and offices on several floors inside of STATTBAD’s unique workspace.

It is also part of the project an outdoor space focused on urban gardening and educational activities for children on the neighborhood.

Sustainability is also a big issue for them: the maintenance of the area is held with the income of it’s concerts and some support from the government of Deutschland, which lasts for as long as 3 years.

Factory Berlin

Factory Berlin is a first-class innovation hub in Berlin, a co-work for many startups as well very well known companies on software industry as Google and Facebook. Much more than a space, it’s a cluster that holds residencies, academic programs, meeting spaces, development events and more. They define themselves as The campus for founders & innovators. Factory brings the best in class technology businesses together with early stage startups and talents by providing an outstanding work environment, a curated community of founders and quality events. To enable entrepreneurs and innovators is our mission.


Farewell BBQ

On the last day of my visit we took part in a very relaxed Barbecue at Farewell BBQ, located in an area of the once Eastern Berlin, that has been occupied by public houses and cultural spaces, as well as architecture and design offices.!1m0!3m2!1spt-BR!2sde!4v1431450520298!6m8!1m7!1s51KvYvwARBkAAAQIt_m8dQ!2m2!1d52.510773!2d13.425524!3f124.87976906585732!4f0!5f0.7820865974627469&w=600&h=450

It is one part of many buildings that have been built on Eastern Berlin after the fall of The Wall. With a strong sense of community, the cultural centre tries to generate it’s own energy and heat and is focused on food, drinks and discussions. It is a very new but very interesting space.

Located in the banks of the Spree, it is a space to chill out in community made furniture.

Most of the buildings of the neighborhood is no longer than six months old, and it was one of the last empty areas in Central Berlin.


Quite close to the last space is located c-base, the oldest crashed space station on earth. A night club designed for hackers and geeks, has a bar, many computers and a bunch of installations that makes you fell inside a spacecraft from the old Cold War. It has also a private area just for members and different beer brands. It is an excellent space to meet friends, even those that you just see once a decade.

You can also take a look on their not-so-institutional video:

re:publica: discussing media on a mainstream platform

The re:publica is one of the largest and most exciting conferences about digital culture in the world. Since its foundation in 2007, it has grown from a cozy blogger meeting with 700 participants into a wide-ranging “society conference”, with 7000 visitors in 2015. Representatives of digital culture share their knowledge and decision-making tools, and discuss the future of the information society. Here they can mingle with activists, scientists, hackers, entrepreneurs, NGOs, journalists, social media and marketing experts, and many others. This fosters innovation and creates synergies between net politics, online marketing, network technology, digital society, and (pop) culture. What is more, around 43 percent of re:publica participants are female — far more than at many other similar events.

This year’s edition has been exciting: a total of 850 international speakers from 60 countries who made up the 500 hour-long program. This is the highest number of speakers so far, making 2015 a record-setting year for re:publica. Young and old alike were represented on re:publica’s 17 stages — from the youngest speaker of 11 years to the renowned Zygmunt Bauman aged 89.

From Iceland to South Africa, from the US to Singapore — the re:publica 2015 brought together people from all continents. From 5th till 7th May 2015, 7000 participants and around 700 accredited international journalists bustled around the fully packed STATION-Berlin.

Of course, the broad focus on issues related to the digital society — from net politics and technological innovations, music, culture and media, to health and education — has convinced sponsors and partners alike. It formed a close partnership with the MEDIA CONVENTION Berlin, the defining congress for the international media industry, which started with the same event space last year. For this year, the collaboration is intensified with one ticket for both events.

Activists, marketeers, policies advocates, public managers, academics and professionals in one space

I would say this is one of the most democratic event on digital culture that I took part of. This mix of people and specificities makes the discussions, panels and meetings full of different ideas, ideals and points to many different solutions, depending on the aspects of the researchers.

Infrastructure of work and leisure

The physical infrastructure of the event is focused on the well being of the participants, no matter if during talks or meetings on the leisure part of the event. Huge internal area, many stages for presentations and a great outdoor space make re:publica a special place to meet people and share ideas.


A good selection of speeches makes re:publica such an special space. It’s worth grab around some videos from it’s web page.


The discussion that I took part was the 4th talk of the conference, on the main stage, the panel was described in re:publica web site as:

Short thesis:

Pitch: Alfredo Brillembourg: As the world becomes increasingly urban, the demand for decent housing is greater than the supply. Those who can afford living in city centers take advantage of better access to economic opportunities and public amenities. Low-income households are increasingly forced to exit the city to find cheaper housing on the city’s fringes or in suburban agglomerations. Discussion (everybody): What can architects learn from community managers and vice versa about urban planning?


The urban environment is the expression of modern life. Cities grow fast, dynamically and not always in the way governments plan. In particular in developing countries, formal city planning seems to be in a race with informal urban development, settlements like so called slums that may serve the immediate needs of their inhabitants, but clash with the plans of those in power. Instead of thinking about urban development as a top-down process, from the drawing board to the street — architects like Alfredo Brillembourg aim to understand informal urbanism and its effects on the city. With their projects, they embrace the “informal” as a laboratory for the study of adaptation and innovation. Alfredo Brillemboourg from Urban Think Tank — a research and design lab concerned with contemporary architecture and urbanism, will present their findings from numerous projects and will discuss with three African innovation hub leaders, from Rwanda, Brazil and Egypt how communities can be involved to make sure the city serves the needs of all its inhabitants. Innovation hubs create nexus points in a city bringing together diverse groups of people — the sum of whose parts are greater than the whole. The idea is to create collaborative spaces for knowledge transfer and serendipitous exchange. Based on their experiences in building and involving communities, Adam Molineux-Berry, Jon Stever and Ricardo Ruiz Freire will comment on the work of the UTT and discuss how social urban development can be fostered in both the formal and informal parts of a city.

Important to notice in here is the format, as seen from the background. A very professional (and huge) infrastructure on event managing, and the high quality audiovisual team, with live stream, many cameras, special lights. It is quite notecible as well the roots of german’s TV auditorium shows on the format of the speeches. Some times, a speech with a good presentation illustrated with videos. Real time transcription (what in the resulted recorded on youtube become subtitles) and a noticeable direction of Real Time Broadcast.

In this talk, as a TV program, Prof. Alfredo Brillemboourg from Urban Think Tank — a research and design lab concerned with contemporary architecture and urbanism, presented in 25 minutes their findings from numerous projects of buildings constructions on living, houses and leisure-sport spaces on poverty suburb areas around the world.

Adam Molineux-Berry, from ice-cairo, Jon Stever from The Office Rwanda and myself presented our works, during five minutes each, and discussed on how social urban development can be fostered in both the formal and informal parts of a city.

The TV program of the hole presentation can be found in here:

I hope one day TVs becomes more and more like the one produced by re:publica 15 during this three days of great content production. It should be on Netflix!


Since Netflix’s entry into the market, a wave of innovation has swept across the media landscape, and has now reached Germany and Europe too. In the first part of the presentations, Reed Hastings, Netflix’s CEO, showed how was his process on the involvement of the technology market on silicon valley, since his first experiences until the launch of Netflix, the first challenges during the delivery video phases fighting against Blockbuster as market leaders, until the actual facet of the company: a startup that break up with the paradigms of how we watch TV in streaming times. Issues about copyright and worldwide content production were also targeted on this first part of the talk. On a second part, Alina Fichter interviewed Mr. Hastings on stage. Actually, it was a little bit of disappointment this second part, once the questions were on a twenty century point of view, and not on perspectives of the company’s future.

The talk and the interview can be watched here:

Sensible Cities

Another good presentation from MIT Sensible Lab’ s Director, Carlo Ratti. In this presentation, he focused on how the increasing deployment of sensors and hand-held electronics in recent years is allowing a new approach to the study of the built environment. For him and his fellows, the way we describe and understand cities is being radically transformed — alongside the tools we use to design them and impact on their physical structure. Prof. Carlo Ratti addressed these issues from a critical point of view through projects by the Senseable City Laboratory, a research initiative at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the design office Carlo Ratti Associati. In the end, asked about policies on privacy about all the big data captured during these kinds of projects by the Open Society Foundations’ Program Officer, Daniela Bezerra, Prof. Ratti gave a very generic answer. The good talk with great examples, including the building with walls made of water and the methodology behind the development of Copenhagen wells project, can be watched here:

From Privacy to Publicity: the changing mode of being-in-the-world

Prof. Zygmunt Bauman, from the University of Leeds (UK), guides our imagination on his keynote about time/space collapse, community and network, expansion of neighborhood, and cocoon-effect of online experience and the questions about privacy and public. The talk can be watched here:


In this session five innovators from different corners of the world gave an overview of the local hacker, maker and start-up scenes, and insights into why innovation spaces matter in the different political and economic environments. Important to notice the Singapore initiatives on hackers Spaces and Coffee Clubs, presented by SAAD CHINOY. Video not available.


What happens when people who do not consider themselves to be innovators or makers are empowered to create solutions that improve their lives and community? MIT’s International Development Innovation Network (IDIN) are developing approaches to innovation and development that shift the focus from ‘design for’ or ‘design with’ to design by people living in poverty. It was presented a series of global case studies to illustrate the impacts of enabling people to become active creators and stewards of affordable, high-impact technologies, rather than just passive recipients or users of technologies. It was also issued the transformational experience of becoming an innovator as well as the process of creating local affordable technologies, including community water testing and treatment systems, human powered agricultural processing machines, medical and assistive devices for improved health, and clean-burning cooking fuels made from waste. In the end, I also had a talk with JONA REPISHTI, the presenter, on how to apply to be part or to hold the workshops, that happens throughout public calls during determined months of the year.

Finding Europe

Excellent perspectives on innovation hubs and new economy development start-ups around the globe, the opposition to the silicon valley unsustainable model, focus on community innovation, grassroots perspectives and free policies, and how Europe could take part as key role on the scenario. A very important outcome of the discussion was the way Brazil is becoming more and more one important ruler in innovations, technologies and society around the globe.



A workshop by JAY FAJARDO: a step-by-step process of configuring a Rasberry PiB+ as a DIY Wi-Fi router to support TORtunneling. At the end of the workshop, he could demonstrate a secure TOR session established using the device.

Caffeinated Making

“Would you like to go for a Coffee? But first, let’s take a quick selfie.” The oversimplified caffeine syllogism: The world relies on technology. Technology relies on geeks, and the geeks relies on caffeine. The world therefore depends on coffee. Without coffee, would we have selfies?

Introducing the Caffeinator. The DIY gravity-powered cold drip coffee machine. Made from a result of, quite simply, being a geek. Also a little about Asian culture and the growing maker community in Singapore, how the HackerSpaces have inspired MakerSpaces, and the other way round, creating an inter-disciplinary dynamic. Making fun things and making things fun. But, mostly about coffee and selfies.


Some technological gadgets were also part of the festivals, concentrated on the exhibition area of re:publica.

Liquid 3D printing

A high-quality 3D printing method on liquid resine. More than print an object, the object raises from the liquid resin, molded by a bunch of laser shots.

Even the movable parts are printed at the same time

A high precision optical system directs a laser across a tank of liquid resin, solidifying hard and flexible layers as thin as 25 microns. The build platform pulls your model upwards, out of the tank.

more on

Google safety center

In times of Big Data and Privacy, Google present their safety center. Not talking about privacy at all, it brings up some tools to you keep your navigation and your family’s one more security. To whom?


Hyve is a Berlin based VR startup. According to Hyve’s on-site demo video, the team has been build a virtual reality simulator called “ICAROS” that is aiming to provide users a unique flying experience. ICAROS is set out to be a combination of VR fitness and gaming device. The ICAROS is designed to simulate a flying experience, however at the same time, ICAROS is also designed to train users’ muscle, improve balance and reflexes. It was such an experience to be inside the machine.


Urban Thinkers Campus Recife

Many projects showed interest in sending support letters for Urban Thinkers in Recife next year. In a few days we want to exchange this support letter and present a proposal to host Unest U:habitat urban campusin Recife, late 2015.

Africahub tekxl in Brazil

It would be a great pleasure to work together in this strategy of cooperation between Brazil and Benin.


A good meeting with Dr. Grabriele Wendorf and her partner, from the Center for Technology and Society. It is also important to start a student’s exchange program between INCiti/UFPE and TUBerlin. There is already an ongoing program between this University and Federal University of Pernambuco, at the Architecture and Urbanism department.

Dengue, Pakistan and LabCeus

A change of information between Mustafa, from Pakistan, from an article presented by one of LabCeusLaboratories on how to count the number of Dengue’s mosquito eggs. Mustafa works for Pakistan Government, on a program focused on the problem of the procreation of Dengue Mosquito.

Global Think Thank for Technologies and society

A great outcome from the GIG session at ZK/U, is the creation of a Global Think Thank for government consulting on Policies on Technologies and Cities. Maybe the first idea is start a wiki with some text, but is very important to the involved in this talk keep on going with this objective.

Vodafone Foundation and LabCEUs

We started a conversation with Vodafone Foundation about them visiting Recife for a session to present the innovations that will be developed during LabCEUs program. It is important to keep this as one of the objectives for an outcome of the project.

Afterwords: Berlin, the model of the future?

Es war ein schöner Aufenthalt in Berlin! Besten Danke!