The iHub in 2012: Freelancers and Presentations

iHub Advisory Board Retreat

This weekend the iHub Advisory Board met with the managers (Tosh and Jessica) to discuss the future direction of the space and what our focus should be for the coming year. The meeting was facilitated by my friend Peter Durand of Alphachimp Studios, who is in town as a part of the PopTech Lab.

The iHub Advisory Boards is made up of 5 people who come from the Nairobi tech community, and represent the community when important, or difficult, decisions have to be made. They are:

  • Riyaz Bachani, Wananchi executive, now in charge of Wazi WiFi
  • Josiah Mugambi, Co-Founder of Skunkworks, works at Nokia Siemens
  • Rebeccah Wanjiku, Tech reporter and founder of Fireside Communications
  • Conrad Akunga, Blogger, co-founder of Mzalendo and highly respected software architect
  • Erik Hersman, Tech blogger and co-Founder of Ushahidi

Looking at 2012

Our overall focus has always been that we should look to serve the tech community first, and that everything else would come from that foundation. As we stepped back to look at what’s happened in the last (almost) 2 years, we tried to identify what worked and where there gaps were.

We first worked through the a “business model canvas”, putting our minds together to find out if we all saw the iHub in the same way, and if what we were doing was what we should be doing. As you can see in the diagram above, we tried to list out all of our partners and community members, then map how we add and receive value from each of them.

A key point of discussion was how do we add value to not just the 250 green members who can come in and use the space, but also the serve the needs of the other 6,000 white members in the “virtual” community. We’ll have more thoughts and announcements on this over weeks and months ahead.

Going Deeper by Improving Freelancer Skills

We delved deeper into this, separating the types of individuals between the startup types vs the freelance types. One of the biggest gaps we’ve found is that there are many freelancers, some of whom are working on a startup on the side, but need the funds from their freelance activities to pay the rent.

Our questions became:

  • How does the makeup of the iHub green membership reflect different levels of what’s needed for projects to be done? In other words, are we diverse enough?
  • How can we help get freelancers more projects?
  • How can we help them become better at delivering on their projects?

In order to do freelance work, you often times have to team up with others who offer the skills that you lack. We’ve noticed that we’re primarily developers at the iHub, with some designers sprinkled in, but don’t have enough project managers or quality assurance types. So, our first order of business is to make sure we’re letting the people with these other skill sets know that they’re welcome to be a part of the iHub community too.

A gap that our sector has in Kenya is that companies who want to get a software project done don’t necessarily want to go with just any freelancer. We’ve discussed for some time the way the iHub brand can be used as a vector to find freelancers, but we’ve shied away from doing anything more than connecting people through the job board or through referrals.

The iHub is now looking into doing the following (and for this, we need some community feedback and help).

  • Standardize a process for clients to interact with iHub freelancers, using the iHub brand as a vector for business needs to be solved by the technology community.
  • Creating a way for developers, designers, project managers and QA people to collaborate and form teams to work on client projects. To be on the “shortlist” of freelancers, each would have to pass a test to make sure they are at the appropriate level.
  • Bring in a very specific and targeted type of mentoring and business skill training to focus on the individuals in this program, so that we can get a better culture of on-time delivery, communications and quality of work.
  • Put in place a system, upon project completion, for clients to rate the team, or individuals, who do the work. This would be tied to iHub member’s profiles, and anyone who under-delivers would be dropped from the pool of freelancers.

If you think you have the skills necessary to be on the initial shortlist for paid project work, and are a member of the iHub, let me or Tosh know as we think through this process. We’re looking for 5-10 people to explore this new area with us. Specifically, we’re also looking for a leader with great project management experience.

What YOU Do

As we stated at the beginning, the iHub is about doers not talkers.

Our final takeaway was on communication by the green members on what they’re doing. To this end, we’ll be putting together a schedule for each of the 250 green members to do a 5-minute presentation, followed by a 5-min Q&A. There will always be a quorum of the iHub Advisory Board present, as they’re the ones who make the final decision on who gets and retains membership. It will also be in front of the other community members who would like to attend so that there is a better understanding in the community of what each of us do.

We’ll subscribe a very tight template, likely 15 slides that automatically progress, much like Pecha Kucha (or Ignite talks). You won’t be required to give up competitive details, this is more for you to give us an overview of what you’re working on, how the iHub is helping with that, and where the gaps are that you need assistance.

Look for more details on this in the near future, and be ready to sign-up for one of the slots. If you don’t do a presentation, you will lose your green membership.

Final Thoughts

The iHub has been operational for 1.5 years and we’re about to celebrate our 2 year anniversary in March. This cushion of almost 2 years has allowed us to do a lot of experimentation, and we’re still in the process of gathering feedback from the community to get a better understanding of how the iHub is doing and what we can do better.

As that information comes in, we’ll do what we always do, and that is double down on what works and throw out what doesn’t. It would help us greatly if you take part in this feedback process, run by Hilda Moraa out of the iHub Research arm.

Finally, a HUGE thank you to everyone who makes the iHub possible!

Ushahidi Strategy Meeting 2011

[Reposted from the Ushahidi Blog]

Yesterday Ushahidi won the Kenya ICT Award for “Social Equity and Poverty Reduction“, which we’re extremely grateful for. None of us were able to attend the conference in Kenya due to the whole team being at our big annual meeting.

The Ushahidi core team works from 7 different timezones ranging from Kampala to Louisville, soon expanding to places like Brazil and Korea. One weekend a year we’re able to get together, in-person, to solidify our connections with each other and talk through the big strategic topics that are best done face-to-face. It could be argued that it’s the most important 3 days of the year for us.

The First XV

2010 was a big growth year for Ushahidi, where we got up to 12 core team members – doubling in size from 2009. We’re adding 3 more people this year, which brings us to 15, a fortuitous number for the team as many of us are big rugby fans. :)

(Caleb decided to have a little fun, putting us all in our positions based on the date that we joined the team.)

12 Months Later

Last year we met in Miami, as we are this year, and a lot has happened since then. To name the big ones:

  • Plugins – extensible way to add new functionality without bloating the core
  • Crowdmap – maps for non-developers, also a means to quickly collect reports giving deployers time to install their own server
  • SMSSync – simple and robust alternative to Frontline and Clickatell
  • iOS – rich smart phone experience
  • Checkins – opens platform to entirely new uses
  • Stand-By Task Force – game changer in disaster response
  • J2ME – extending reaching onto older devices
  • Community Site – fantastic documentation
  • Map Geometry

Looking at the historical record, it’s been a good year. However, there’s a lot more to do. At this meeting, besides drinking a Mojito on South Beach, we’ll get into some of the big future-looking issues, such as:

Visual Reporting: What’s the perfect Ushahidi dashboard? How do we surface “power stats” for Ushahidi deployments and metrics. Swift-Ushahidi integration visuals on the front and back end.

Knowledge Management: How do we come up with a plan to capture information that we know internally, so that it is shared with deployers and developers better?
The inverse, how do we handle and capture information that our *users* know regularly?

Crowdmap Scalability & Migration: Making sure that even the biggest deployments work on Crowdmap. Adding in new a la carte features, etc.

Of course, this is a chance to discuss some of the more mundane items as well, around operations, funds and how we work towards organizational financial sustainability as well. It also means that we’ll be offline from today until about Tuesday of next week. We’ll be a little slower on email and other communications mediums, but bear with us as it’s for a good cause.

Barcamp Nairobi this Weekend

It’s that time of year again, so I hope all of you Nairobian techies, bloggers and programmers are ready for Barcamp Nairobi. [Twitter: @BarcampNairobi]

Barcamp Nairobi will take place at the iHub and NaiLab, starting at 9am on Saturday June 12th and going late into the night. It keeps going on Sunday with WhereCamp Africa, so all you geo/mapping geeks get ready.

As usual, those who get in early will get a Barcamp t-shirt, until they’re all gone.

Register here. There are already about 300 planning to attend.

A Barcamp Primer

Barcamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants who are the main actors of the event.”

Those who haven’t been to a Barcamp need to understand something: You make the event. It’s a very democratic event, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Permanent Secretary of a university student, if you have something people want to hear, you’ll have a chance to sign up for a time and room to talk in, and people will vote with their feet on whether or not they like your topic.

We start the morning off with a session where everyone gets a chance to put forward their topic and then sign up for a time and room. The day then begins, and it’s a madhouse of great talks and even better people and connections. Food and snacks are provided, and the new iHub coffee shop is open for you to buy your caffeinated drinks all day long. :)

Potential Topcis

  • Using my (GPS Enabled) cell phone to avoid traffic
  • Cloud Computing Applications in Kenya
  • Business Skills for Techies
  • Rural ICT
  • ICT initiatives for youth
  • Mobile Application Development
  • Using Google Fusion Tables
  • Web design, and why it’s not as good as it should be in Kenya
  • Hardware hacking
  • Tips and tricks for internet connectivity around Nairobi
  • Merging mobile and electronic commerce concepts
  • Walking-papers.org: openstreetmapping without a GPS
  • Drupal, WordPress, Joomla and other CMS hacks

Get your talk ready!

Map & Directions

The iHub is on the 4th floor of the Bishop Magua Centre, directly opposite Uchumi Hyper on Ngong Road.


View iHub – Nairobi’s Innovation Hub in a larger map

It’s hard to believe it’s been 2 years since we last did this, letting 2009 slip by us… I’m really glad we’re doing this in 2010 and happy that Ushahidi is sponsoring it, as well as the iHub providing the space!

Tandaa Kenya Meeting: Local Digital Content

“If Africans are to get online en masse, they need a reason to go there. Their lives, their stories”

– Dennis Gikunda of Google Kenya, requoting Alim Walji who was at Google.org and is now at the World Bank.

The Kenya ICT Board is throwing the Tandaa event today in Nairobi at the iHub, sponsored by Google Kenya. It’s all about getting more local Kenyan content online, and it’s a good mixture of speakers so far, with Dennis Gikunda starting off, giving us examples of successful local content plays.

A “remember when” session just started, talking about how slow the internet used to be just a couple short years ago. Jimmy Gitonga scolds us for not doing more with what we have, figuring out business models and ways to make money off of our fast connections. He also reminds us that 2 million Kenyans access Facebook on their phones today. Moses Kemibaro steps up to give the real numbers showing the costs of internet, and the speeds, that has happened over the last year.

Joshua Wanyama, of Pamoja Media and Africa Knows, is up to talk about “The internet at 500Mb” – how to help Kenyan companies make money online. He’s giving us a short summary of his background, about how he started a web development company from the ground up in the US, then how he’s brought that same mindset back to Kenya.

“If I were to go online and try to find all the dentists nearby me in Nairobi, I couldn’t find it since it has not been digitized yet.” – Joshua Wanyama

Josh goes on to say that we don’t have enough success stories, though he does reference Ushahidi and Safaricom’s Mpesa. We need more of them, as it will help get more young, smart entrepreneurs operating in the internet space. Most of the internet traffic from Africa goes to websites like Facebook, YouTube and Yahoo, all outside of Africa. What are we doing to get our own content up and make it more of a viable business alternative for our own society?

Eddie Malitt of Sega Silicon Valley is here to talk about turning Sega village, a remote village of over 10,000 inhabitants located in Ugenya district – 25 km from the Kenya- Uganda border, into a “Silicon Valley” – an African ICT hub. One of the interesting findings that Eddie shared with us is that the children are leading the training of their parents and other adults. It doesn’t sound like their operations are self-sustainable, but that good things happen due to them being there.

[More of the Tandaa event will be going on today, but I’ll be unable to keep up with it due to other meetings. Follow it on Twitter at #Tandaa or @TandaaKENYA. I’m sure that Moses and Mbugua will also have something up later today.]

Africa Gathering Nairobi 2009

Today I’m at AfricaGathering, a small conference focused on tech in Africa. I was at the first one in London earlier this year, and we had a great time, so I hope this will be just as good. This is the third one of it’s kind, but the first to take place in Africa – in this case Nairobi, Kenya at the British Council. I’ve decided to do one long running post today, where I’ll just keep adding to the post as the day goes on – refresh the page for more.

British Council in Nairobi

Today’s speaker list

PesaPal

PesaPal logoRight now Agosta Liko, a smart tech businessman who runs Verviant, is talking. He launched PesaPal just 2 months ago as a web-based mobile payments system for Kenya. Now that I’ve moved back to Kenya, I’m looking forward to trying PesaPal out in person.

“Life is 98% boring, work is boring and operational. 2% is inspiration and that’s where you get all the press. Make no mistake, the boring stuff is where you grow your business.” – Agosta Liko

There is no consumer oriented web payment system in Kenya. It’s a way for the unbanked (and banked) to buy online in Kenya. Agosta thinks that they are well positioned to be the most efficient transaction system in Africa. PesaPal is trying to find equilibrium between value, payment systems and real money. Making a transaction of beans or cows equivalent to one made by credit cards or PayPal.

PesaPal value flow

The transaction rate for merchants holding an account with PesaPal is currently 2.75%. PayPal, the closest comparable online payment system is set at 2.9%.

Kenyans for Change

Kenyans for ChangeJane Munga is here to tell us about a social movement called Kenyans for Change (K4C). They’ve been working on uniting Kenyans worldwide, starting with a group on Facebook and quickly moving around the world with 10,000 users in the diaspora and in Kenya itself. It’s a voice for national reform online.

Jane Munga of Kenyans for Change

Jane is talking about what’s needed to restore hope in the “Kenyan Dream”. This dream is defined by the Harambee spirit, equality, national unity and sound leadership. With last year’s post-election violence, the poor state of roads and hospitals and all the other ails that we face in Kenya, it’s a hard sell. What’s interesting to me here is to see that the impetus for this initiative seems to come from the diaspora, after all, Jane lives in Alabama most of the time. This begs the questions, will it take the diaspora taking part to make real change happen?

One of the projects that Kenyans for Change is working on is called Project Amani (“peace” in Swahili), focused on the youth by the youth.

Africa Rural Connect

Africa Rural Connect logoMolly Mattessich is here to talk to us about an initiative by the US National Peace Corps Association, Africa Rural Connect is an online platform with a mission to connect current and returned Peace Corps Volunteers with the African Diaspora, development practitioners, scholars, technologists and innovators to discuss rural agricultural development challenges and solutions in Africa.

“Find answers to Africa’s rural agricultural problems”

ARC is a way to use global collaboration to solve endemic agricultural issues across the continent. They focused the project on two main groups. First, Peace Corps Volunteers who have lived in the rural areas and who have a good understanding of what is going on at the village level as they lived there for two years. The second is the Afrian diaspora living around the world.

The $20k grand prize winner is actually here in the room, Jacky Foo with his “The Ndekero Challenge: A Systems Approach for Rabbit Keeping by a Rural Community in Partnership with a Commercial Rabbit Farm”.

The ARC project is built on Wegora, a tool that’s part blogging, commenting and voting. It’s built specifically for use by communities and collaboration amongst them. It’s really well designed platform and I’d expect to see it used by a lot of other organizations in the future.

Low Tech Social Networking at Africa Gathering Nairobi

We’re currently running through a workshop on collaboration (Low-tech social networking), where we write down our “big dream” and the steps we need to get there. Others in the room can then come up and offer help on what can be done to make it happen.

Kenya Airways

Rose Ohingo and Ann Muthui (who’s in charge of the social networking side of customer service) are here to talk about how Kenya Airways has created an online presence and a social networking strategy. They are here to talk about how the airline is using social media networks like twitter to attract new business and keep in touch with it’s client base to great success.

Look for Kenya Airways on Twitter at @KenyaAirways, on YouTube and Facebook.

What have we learned about “being out there“?

First off, people are surprised and impressed to find Kenya Airways interacting with them on social networks where they are online. Where they build relationships with people on a personal basis. People try to verify if it really is a KQ representative, and then they dig even deeper trying to find the names of the people behind the account(s).

Kenya Airways stats on Twitter

Using analytics, Kenya Airways really tries to understand who is following them and who is interacting with them online. It turns out that 17% of their Twitter followers are travel guides, they have almost 2200+ followers, and their greatest growth has been 26% in the month of December (more stats).

“It’s a human face that they’ve never seen. They ask about jobs and how it is to work for KQ. They want to have a look inside the company.”

Marketing on social media has been very successful, case-in-point was the KQ tweet on the ability to use Mpesa to pay for flights using mobile phones.

Access Kenya

Kris Senanu is here representing Access Kenya, one of the countries largest ISPs, which services the corporate market. Kris will be talking about: “Fibre – the dawn of a new era”.

Kris Senanu of Access Kenya

In 1995 Kris was graduating out of college, and the fastest internet connection you could get was 9.6kb and you needed a phone line – at that time there were only about 210,000 working phone lines, most within Nairobi and Mombasa. If it was raining, you had even less of a chance getting online. Times have changed.

Ultimately, the world is now flat, now that we have fibre in Kenya – we can compete and connect at a global level in ways we could never do before. Job creation and lifestyles will change as knowledge workers, who are needed in the new economy, now have access to the same level of connectivity as anyone in else in the world. Africa would have followed Europe and the West by going towards eCommerce – we have the ability to leapfrog that and go straight to mCommerce. We have the ability to do transactions that you would have spent a long time doing before, getting in 2 hour long lines and dealing with city traffic, just withour mobile phones.

Technology is a key enabler and facilitator for our transformation in Africa.

I agreed with Kris about the technology gap decreasing. I asked him if the challenge wasn’t any longer a technological one, is it a cultural one? Is it an issue of Africans using technology in a way that truly makes them equal on the global level – on time, reliability, quality?

Kris had a brilliant answer, starting with Kenya having a culture of excusability, where peopel always have an excuse for why things are late or shoddy. He then went into the difference between “Matatu-time” vs “train-time”. The train leaves at 8:05 on the dot, if you’re not on it by that time, your loss. Matatu-time leaves at 8-ish – time isn’t as important. This cultural understanding of time is an area where there is a gap that might be the biggest issue between Africa and the rest of the world.

On Customer Service
Juliana aksed, “How does Access Kenya deal with customer service and support when there are high expectations in the market?”

Kris goes on to talk about the way Access Kenya grew from being a company that dealt with corporate clients. They would rather pass up business than deal with consumers. Now however, they found that they had excess bandwidth, especially in the evenings – so they decided to create a consumer-focused service. This hasn’t worked out so well. Kris fell on his sword, stating that they are trying to improve their consumer services, but they are no where near where they need to be and are trying to make it better, trying to make it as good as their corporate services.

Essential Africa

Jimmy Gitonga & Juliet Mukunga are here to talk about Essential Africa, an African search engine, portal, and free web directory with comprehensive listings covering all African countries on one single virtual platform.

Jimmy tells us how in Africa, there’s not normal street names or directories for things. In Africa, you need a guy. As in, “I know a guy…” who can help you as you’re trying to find something.

An example, you’re trying to plan a trip across Africa on a bicycle, how do you know where to stop, eat, sleep and visit? There is no directory. There is no content.

This is why they created Essential Africa, a way for people to get a free African listing. He gets an address, map directions, contact number, and a description and a URL to the company’s website.

“Everyone thinks that we’re philanthropic. No, we’re not blue-eyed like that. We make money off of the eyeballs and the advertising.” – Jimmy Gitonga

I Know a Guy...

Essential Africa has been at it for two years. They started with spidering the web (with limited success) and then getting people to start entering their own information. It’s been a long road, but they’ve started to gather a lot of information, a lot of listings for organizations and small businesses who have never been on the internet at all.

They are hoping to be the African “human” search engine. It’s built for computer and mobile devices, covering all African countries on one single virtual comprehensive platform. They’re hoping to be the gateway for Africans and the friends of Africa who are visiting.

Movirtu

Christine Ogonji is here as one of the newest members of Movirtu. They are creating a way for poor people to share a phone, but not a phone number. They target services to the bottom of the pyramid, for profit – the classic “do well by doing good”.

Out of 3.4 billion people in the world who have a handset and a SIM card, 1 billion only have a SIM card, but no phone. Their income is $1-2 per day, but they spend 5-30% of their income on mobile communications.

Here’s a video about Movirtu, and why it’s a product that could make a big difference in Africa:

Funding for Movirtu has come from Gray Chost Ventures and Grassroots Business Fund.

Right now Christine says that Movirtu is looking to provide an Mpesa-like account for people using the virtual phone numbers. The name for this service is MXPay, and is going to have mobile money integration with a regular account and one time use. Distribution of monies or acceptance of payment from specific people below the poverty line who do now own a phone or a SIM card.

They’re targeting their first 1 million customers in 2010.

The End

A big thanks to Ed Scotcher and team for today. Tomorrow is the big “open” day here at the British Council. Get here by 9AM if you want to get a seat.

When do You Need Funding?

I’ve spent the last couple days in scenic Salzburg, Austria with 20 other people from both traditional journalism and new media backgrounds. Our goal: discuss strategies for more effective engagement and investment in “tomorrow’s media“. There are a mixture of organizations in the room, some established and others start-ups, like myself representing Ushahidi.

One of the questions posed, and which I’ve been ruminating on, is “when do you need funding?” (At this particular meeting, we’re talking grants primarily, but this applies to traditional seed and VC funding as well.)

Invest in Doers not Talkers

972816_tape_measureI don’t think it’s as early as most people think. There are a lot of people out there who claim they need funds in order to build a product. I disagree. Your first job is to build it. It might be in your nights and weekends, but that’s to be expected.

Yes, at a certain level you need funding that allows you to live, feed yourself and grow a business, but that’s not until you actually have something to show. Why would you expect someone to pay you money for a good idea? There are good ideas everywhere, but few examples of great execution upon these ideas.

A great presentation, Powerpoint or speech will get you a long way, and the ability to communicate is essential in both getting funding and getting user adoption or partners to work with you. However, nothing sells a good idea like a working product.

Whether it’s building a prototype, like we did with Ushahidi in Kenya, or a couple guys in a garage creating a new search algorithm and having to shop the product of that research around before they find investors, it’s too be expected that the work comes first, the funds second.

Growing

When is funding needed then? It’s needed when you have a product and it shows potential for success. Where you can talk to smaller investors who can support your work a little longer so that it can be refined and grow into something that has a real chance to make a difference, make money or both.

The second level of funding is about scale. It’s when you have a proven product that already has some success and needs more than it’s current cash-flow, or personnel, to take it to make a broader impact.

Ushahidi Tech Meeting

David and Henry talk about Ushahidi

This last weekend was the first of what I hope will be an annual meeting for Ushahidi. It was a time where we brought in the most active of the African programming community, and invited in some of the top subject matter experts in SMS, mapping and machine algorithms to better set Ushahidi’s technical course for 2009.

Attendees

Erik Hersman – Ushahidi, community and strategy
David Kobia – Ushahidi, lead dev
Juliana Rotich – Ushahidi, projects and user experience
Henry Addo (Ghana) – Ushahidi, core architecture, projects
Ken Banks (UK) – FrontlineSMS founder
Brian Muita (Kenya) – Java, tech hub manager
Patrick Meier – Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, conflict early warning expert
Andrew Turner – Mapping, neo-geography expert
Chris Blow – Usability, user experience expert and Swift River
Soyapi Mumba (Malawi) – Front-end map interface, Javascript
Caleb Bell – Web designer, Ushahidi admin area
Morad Rayyan (Qatar) – End-user (Al Jazeera)
Ka-Ping Lee – Google.org dev, PFIF
Sean Gourley – Mathematician, predictive algorithms
Kaushal Jhalla – Swift River project manager

Items discussed

There were two main thrusts for the meeting. First, the current focus on getting Ushahidi to Beta. Items discussed included everything from finalizing the installer process (and simplifying it), to page load times, map tile caching and subscribing to alerts.

The second was areas of future growth that we’ll be working on in the coming year. This is where we discussed how Ushahidi can fit into the microblogging and mobile social networks, Insta-wikis, Swift River and how we can work with voice and other projects like Huridocs and Sahana.

Next steps

Ken trying to make... something

We not only covered each of these areas as concepts, but we broke into smaller groups to outline the actual next steps in getting the project moved further.

  • User experience
  • Incoming news streams
  • Offline capability
  • Swift River
  • Core architecture

This week Henry, Brian, Soyap, David and myself are spending the week together working on the most critical items on our to-do list for beta release. Others, like Kaushal, Andrew and Chris are taking Swift River to the prototype stage.

Upcoming Technology Events Throughout Africa

I’m starting to compile a list of interesting technology events happening around the continent. If this ends up being useful, I’ll create a page to keep it updated. Let me know if you like it, or if there is someone already keeping a calender of sorts.

African Technology Events 2008

Upcoming events to watch (chronological):

West & Central Africom – “The premier meeting place for communications decision-makers to discuss the key issues facing the market.”
Dates: June 18-19, 2008
Location: Abuja Int’l Conference Center in Abuja, Nigeria

Barcamp Nairobi ’08 – A local “unconference” for Kenyan techies, web designers and bloggers. (disclosure: I’m part of this)
Dates: June 21, 2008
Location: Jacaranda Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya

APPFRICA – a new technology conference and thinktank.
Dates: July 31, 2008
Location: Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda

WordCamp SA – For all bloggers in and around South Africa.
Dates: August 23, 2008
Location: TBD, in Cape Town, South Africa

Barcamp Kampala – Another unconference pops up for Uganda – looking forward to hearing about this one.
Dates: August 29, 2008
Location: TBD, Kampala, Uganda

MobileActive ’08 – A conference on mobile technology for social impact.
Dates: October 13-15, 2008
Location: TBD in Johannesburg, South Africa

[If you have a good tech conference coming up, let me know.]

Barcamp Nairobi – June 21st

Coders. Designers. Bloggers.

Barcamp Nairobi '08

If you’re in Nairobi on June 21st, mark your calendar! We’ll be meeting at Jacaranda Hotel, going from 10am-5pm for Barcamp Nairobi ’08.

What is a Barcamp?

BarCamp is an ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from participants.”

All you need to know is this: it beats the hell out of a normal conference.

There is no pre-planned schedule of events, or speakers. There are set timeframes and rooms for anyone who comes in to sign-up for a time to speak in. You attend the ones you find the most interesting. It’s also less speaking than it is conversation and discussion around a specific topic.

Ideas for Barcamp Nairobi ’08
I’m sure you’ll come up with plenty of other items that are well worth having a discussion about. Here are some of the things on my mind that I hope to hear and/or talk about:

  • Local mapping (Open Streetmap, Green Map, etc.)
  • Blogging tools and trends
  • Mobile phone apps (Android in Africa, FrontlineSMS and RapidSMS)
  • Using Google’s App Engine for building web and mobile services
  • I’d love to hear from some of the EPROM guys that worked with Nathan Eagle
  • OS curriculum for universities
  • Studying users (mobile and web)
  • Building into social networks

Of course, I’ll do a talk on Ushahidi. Not just Ushahidi though, but some of the really interesting and open areas surrounding the crowdsourcing of content in Africa using mobile devices. Then, augmenting that content with web services like Google Maps, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, etc.

Oh, I didn’t mention that Ushahidi will be providing free t-shirts for attendees. You have to be signed up on the Barcamp wiki to get one, so head on over!


Barcamp Nairobi '08 shirt

Sponsored by Ushahidi, Yahoo and O’Reilly so far, get in touch with me if you’d like to sponsor as well. We could use a few more shillings to cover some of the expenses. And schwag, attendees can’t get enough schwag… :)

You can also RSVP on the Facebook event page, but know that for the t-shirts you need to be registered on the wiki.