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NYT Article on the Kenya Tech Scene

Gregg Zachary happened by Barcamp Nairobi last month and had a chance to meet with a few of the techies who were lingering around after the event. Conversations from that night spurred his article today in the New York Times titled, “Inside Nairobi, the Next Palo Alto?“.

It’s a good read on why Kenya, even after the violence in January and February, is still a tech hub in Africa. Between Skunkworks, Google Kenya and an active (and creative) coding community you have the makings of a great place to do web and mobile development in Africa.

Here’s the excerpt on Wilfred, who is building the Ushahidi iPhone application. He’s also using my old MacBook Pro and, assuming everything goes right, he’ll have an iPhone to play with later on this year. 🙂

“Consider Wilfred Mworia, a 22-year-old engineering student and freelance code writer in Nairobi, Kenya. In the four weeks leading up to Apple’s much-anticipated release of a new iPhone on July 11, Mr. Mworia created an application for the phone that shows where events in Nairobi are happening and allows people to add details about them.

Mr. Mworia’s desire to develop an application for the iPhone is not unusual: many designers around the world are writing programs for the device. But his location posed some daunting obstacles: the iPhone doesn’t work in Nairobi, and Mr. Mworia doesn’t even own one. He wrote his program on an iPhone simulator.

“Even if I don’t have an iPhone,” Mr. Mworia says defiantly, “I can still have a world market for my work.”

It’s really good to see the Kenyan tech community get this high profile piece. Riyaz, Josiah and Eric have been the steady center-pieces of the growing Skunkworks crowd. Chris and Joe are doing great things at Google Kenya.

Oh, and Nairobi is a small town after all… Most don’t know that Josiah (Skunkworks) and Chris (Google Kenya) are old classmates from Starehe. A lot of old connections just like that tend to be the glue that keeps everything together.

Barcamp Nairobi ’08 – Final Recap

Barcamp Nairobi ended up being quite an event, with 228 attendees and an overwhelming amount of good conversations. The list included bloggers, web and mobile developers, government officials and students. We had people from all over Kenya, as well as a couple who came in from Tanzania. It was truly eclectic and exactly what we were hoping it would be. Josiah Mugambi has the full run-down of topics covered in each room.

Pictures
Can be found on Picasa, Flickr and Facebook (you’ll have to friend John Wesonga for the Facebook ones).

Videos
I’m working on uploading a couple videos from Barcamp Nairobi. There were some really good conversations started, not all of which I was able to get on video, or even be in the room for. Hopefully, we’ll get some blog posts and videos from others who were there as well.

I’ll continue uploading additional videos throughout the week on YouTube.

Barcamp Nairobi Bloggers (let me know if I missed you):

O’Reilly Radar
(Programming Languages Survey)
Al Kags (gov’t perspective)
Rob Rooker
The Deeper Meaning of Life (Liz)
John Wesonga
Wilfred Mworia
Josiah Mugambi
Clement “Omesa” Ongera
Peperuka
Frontline Interactive
69mb (poster) (post #2)
Louder than Swahili (post #2)
Startup Africa
Notes from the Road (on Ndemo)
SportsKenya
Tech Talk (NY Times columnist)
Girl in the Meadow
The Gitts Zone
Brian Longwe
Kenyan Poet
Open Source Africa
Do Good Well
Business in Focus
Odyssean
Network World

Barcamp Nairobi Pictures

I’m totally abusing the great (relative term) wifi connection left over at the Jacaranda Hotel after Barcamp Nairobi. Getting images loaded up as fast as possible…

Barcamp Nairobi ’08 pictures can be found on Flickr using the search tag, “barcampnairobi“.

My images are going up on this set.

Barcamp Nairobi

Barcamp Nairobi

Below, NY Times journalist G. Pascal Zachary, showed up and we had a great chat on the local tech makeup, opportunities and economy. Steve Mutinda tells his story of making mobile phone applications.

Post-Barcamp Nairobi Hanging out

Barcamp Nairobi Begins

Things started on Nairobi time, we had some chai and samosa, now we’re beginning the sessions. There seems to be over 100 people here already. T-shirts are being handed out, and we’re passing out O’Reilly books and Yahoo freebies during the day.

TAG for blogging, Twitter and Flickr: barcampnairobi

My Barcamp pictures are going up to this set on Flickr.

First up is:

  • Where are the devs? – Riyaz Bachani talks about the increasing bandwidth options in Nairobi, but asks where are the online entrepreneurs?
  • Google Maps as Platform – Mark from Google Kenya talks about using Google Maps in detail.
  • BugLabs – Brian Muita gives an overview of hacking the BUGbundle, showing his new accelerometer game, then opening up the device for hacking by devs today.

Tim getting excited
Second group:

  • UbuntuMzungu talks about using Ubuntu, LTSP server, and running applications on the server instead of the workstation.
  • Plone (cms) –
  • Jahazi – Mugambi talks about his app.

I’ll be going up in the third session, talking about “blogging tips and tricks”.

Some Happenings from Week 1 in Kenya

Man, things are crazy. This last week has been very busy, and full of interesting stuff. Some of the more important, mixed with fun and mundane:


AfriGadget
makes the Time.com list of “Top 50 Websites of 2008“. Completely unexpected, and thrilling to see. Thanks to all the editors like Steve, Juliana and JKE too.

Met up with an incredibly talented mobile phone application creator, Steve Mutinda, (J2ME) with two very cool mobile phone apps. Full video interviews on him too, and have just posted the first article.

Barcamp + Buglabs = <3

Got together with some local Kenyan tech guys and we’re hacking away on a BugLabs BUGbundle, trying to get a cool app up and running on it by Barcamp Nairobi this weekend. Posting pictures on that soon.

Met up with a ton of local guys, with some really interesting projects and ideas that I’ll be blogging about soon. Including big thinker Al Kags of the ICT Board, talented designer Fadz of Ark, Matere Lutische with a really cool idea, and many more…

Redid the Ushahidi wireframes, and meeting with some local developers to help build version 2 with us. Got some neat stuff up our sleeves, and one big surprise for Saturday’s Barcamp.

Went and watched a lot of rugby (Pictures are up at Flickr), including Quins vs KCB, RVA vs Mang’u and the Safari Sevens veterans. I love rugby season, only wish I could play too.

Choo makes a break

Finally, the windup to tomorrow’s Barcamp Nairobi is at an end. Thanks to Google Kenya, Strategiclee, the Kenya ICT Board and Ushahidi for sponsoring it. We’re all set and ready to roll at the Jacaranda Hotel (Pizza Garden side). Should be a blast, and there will be a lot of pictures and posts to come.

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.

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