You can also listen to the podcast on: Google Podcasts, Spotify, Deezer, and Stitcher.


  • 01:24 - Brief history of Shenzhen
  • 03:00 - Comparing the foundations of Silicon Valley vs Shenzhen
  • 28:44 - Africa-China relations and the importance of infrastructure
  • 49:10 - Shenzhen's open innovation model and ecosystem
  • 58:45 - Local involvement is important for economic growth

If you look back just under 40 years ago, the global Information Technology sector was completely different, from the perspective of the dominant countries and companies, from what it is today.

However, it is exactly at that time that China started building a city that plays an extremely important role in the global supply chain of electronic goods and especially mobile phones.

In this podcast, David Li, who works in Shenzhen, explains how the Chinese government selected Shenzhen, a rural fishing village of a few thousand people, 39 years ago as one of its Special Economic Zones. This decision, along with other factors that David elaborates on, led to Shenzhen today being responsible for over 60% of the global mobile phone market.

One of the other highlights of this episode of The Tefo Mohapi Show is that David explains how Shenzhen's open innovation model differs from how things are done in Silicon Valley.

Part of this model is how Shenzhen technology ecosystem endeavors to turn high-tech into a commodity and as such has become a supplier to some companies that are creating technology products for underserved communities like we have in parts of Africa.

Biography: David Li

David is the Executive Director of Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab (SZOIL), an organization that facilitates the collaboration between global smart hardware entrepreneurs and the Shenzhen Open Innovation ecosystem.

Before SZOIL, David co-founded XinCheJian in 2010, the first hackerspace in China to promote hacker/maker culture and open source hardware. In 2011, he co-founded Hacked Matter, a research hub on maker movement and open innovation. In 2015, he co-founded Maker Collider, a platform to develop next generation Internet of Things from the maker community.

David has been participating in the open source movement since 1990, and he is the member of Free Software Foundation and the code contributor of Apache as well as the director of Object Web Open Source Geospatial Foundation.

Podcast notes

Organization: Shenzhen Open Innovation Lab.

Organization: Maker Collider.

Video: AI for Good Global Summit by ITU.

Article: The abundance of open knowledge, innovation and tech with David Li by Thought for Food.

Video: Ethiopia - Tana Communication says it assembles 4,500 mobile phones a day by Nazret Com.

Article: Open Innovation in Shenzhen: An Interview with David Li by Hallam Stevens.

Article: What is behind the boom in e-commerce in China's rural areas? by Al Jazeera.

Article: Who Are China's Biggest Fabless Chipmakers? by Electronic Design.

Share this via: