Technology for Africa

Tech4Africa is a web and emerging technology conference, committed to bringing global perspective to the African context. This platform would like to play a role in igniting the talent and skill of a generation of Africans in reach of mobile phone and global market. Founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, maintains that, “Africans can help themselves and they are just as smart and motivated as anyone else.”

Participants at the 2010 tech4Africa conference, which was held from 12-13 August 2010 in Johannesburg, had the privilege to listen to a lineup of experienced speakers, including Andy Budd from Clearleft, Apple’s Alex Hunter and Erin Caton, Joe Stump from SimpleGeo, Jonathan Snook from Yahoo! and Dustin Diaz from Twitter, who have been working on digital projects and online platforms in the past decades.

With the burgeoning mobile market, the impact of social media, cheaper hardware and improved bandwidth, Africa has the opportunity now to participate on the global stage. Initiatives usch as Mini-Seedcamp at 2010 Tech4Africa gives opportunities to a new generation of African developers and entrepreneurs to connect with international networks of company builders, investors and product experts.

Attendants at this year's conference had a choice between business classes (panel discussions with a strategic approach on subjects like mobile market, Internet connectivity, social media and cloud computing) and technical class where presentations were purely technical. They showcased and shared experience in relation to their products - iPhone applications, Java scripts, Crowdmapping, Js interfaces and mobile payments.

Overall, my highlight of the conference was an inspirational presentation by Leila Janah, the founder and CEO of Samasource, a social business that connect over 800 women, youth and refugees living in poverty to digital work. As the audience stood and applauded Janah’s emotional speech taking us through her life and the past ten years, we all realised how skills and experience could be applied to great effect in the African context.

Basically, this organisation leverage technology to create jobs for millions in poverty. They outsource major international companies research with cheaper field work services and also do the tagging of millions of pictures for Flickr, Web Picassa and Google images.

Taking us through her stories during her presentation, Janah’s (@leila_c) had a life changing experience when she got involved in volunteer work within one poor community in Ghana. She saw the need and provided what she calls ‘virtual factory, online jobs for poor Ghanaian teenagers who were asking her for money’. “Internet is a platform for global meritocracy. The biggest thread to poverty alleviation is lack of opportunity”, she maintains.

Other moments:

  • Joe Stump (@joestump), He talked about the benefit of partitioning, server catching and Mytown on iPhone. But more interesting was is experience as Digg’s Lead Architect. I understood that an idea can be genius but the execution matters.
  • Arthur Goldstuck (@art2gee); Impressive facilitation and roundup of the panel discussion entitled ’ What you need to know about the mobile market’. To recall the moment, one pessimist panelists became arrogant in the discussion that the audience may have started to lose the point. Weighting in debate with his experience on Internet, mobile and business, Goldstuck was able to give the audience an outlook on the future with mobile market in Africa. Putting things into perspective, I do believe that such division in views demonstrates just how complex the adaptation of adequate technology in Africa is if, Africans overlook themselves.
  • Generally, a fair debate on social web was held. I should say that having attended the SANGONeT ‘Social media for NGOs’in 2009 (#Sango09), Tech4africa’s discussions on what this means for business and consumers was nothing new for me. The conclusion still: No one size fits all. And knowing your audience is key for success in social networking.
  • Panel Discussion: Are we fundable? I attended this session and learnt that South African funding organisations receive hundred of online applications per day. However, only a dozen can be shortlist because 80 percent of the business plans lack consistency and clear vision. Twitting on the subject I recommend the 2010 SANGONeT’s ’Fundraising in the Digital world‘Conference (#SANGO10) . Register now and join hundreds of organisations willing to learn everything about online fundraising.

The 2010 tech4Africa conference was a very good initiative. Thanks to Tech4Africa, I have no doubt that it is through exposure to the collective ’global' experience that Africa will gain and contribute in the digital world.

Click here for more information about the 2010 Tech4Africa.

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