African Digerati - M

“M” is the third in the African Digerati series of interviews. His cryptographic alias is part of the brand that he has built within the Kenyan Blogosphere around his blog Thinker’s Room. If popularity of a blog is shown by the number of commenters on any one blog post, then it can be argued that Thinker’s Room is at the top of the list.

One of the projects that M has worked on, which is not mentioned in this interview, is Mzalendo, a website whose mission is to keep “an eye on Kenyan Parliament”. They do this by showing profiles of politicians, voting records and providing news and transparency in an historically opaque arena. It’s this ground breaking website, along with his community on Thinker’s Room that makes him a force in digital Africa.

Blog and/or website: Thinker’s Room

What do you do:
IT … system analysis and design for one of Kenya’s leading IT firms

What inspires you?
Very simple. Life. My observations in general, what I see in my day to day dance with hope and fate.

Who are some of your biggest influences?
Reading in general and in particular history – fascinating to see in some ways just how much we’ve learnt and in others just how little!

If you weren’t involved with technology, what would you do instead?
Psychology. Or maybe teach history

Name one book that you would label “required reading” for those in the African technology sphere:
The 2006 Yearbook, by Phil Factor (2006, Simple talk publishing)

What emerging technologies are you most excited about?
Mobile computing (mobile phones, PDAs) as well as rich web application development (JSON, Ajax, etc)

What do you see as the biggest advantage or opportunity for African technology development?
Leveraging the GSM and GPRS technologies to deliver services and empower commerce.

What do you see as the biggest challenge for African technology development?
The biggest is the prohibitive cost of high speed bandwidth, where it is available.

What are your thoughts on the impact of blogging in Africa?
It has had quite the impact in empowering people to exchange information and ideas and participate in intellectual exchanges. Zero cost publishing for the masses has enabled news and views that wouldn’t otherwise be covered by the mainstream media to be heard across the continent and across the world.