Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: barcampafrica

Barcamp Africa Finds a New (virtual) Home

A couple years ago, the first Barcamp unconferences started to show up around Africa. These loosely organized events end up having a large impact on the local grassroots tech scene and blogosphere. The open and unstructured format ends up fitting the African style of community and discussion around ideas and projects that just isn’t found in normal conferences.

Barcamp Africa Logo - large

The first “Barcamp Africa“, however, was a little different than the normal local events. It was put together by individuals in the US (at the Google office in California), some of whom were diaspora, and others who had a deep interest in the continent.

Maneno LogoThat was a year ago, and now the good people behind Maneno (a blogging platform made for Africa) have taken over the hosting of content around Barcamp’s that take place in Africa or that have an African focus. Beyond that, they have created a simple way for those putting on new Barcamp’s to setup an online home for it.

“The primary objective of the new BarCamp Africa hub is to encourage a continuous stream of participant driven content from African barcamps before, during, as well as after the events take place. Barcamp Africa allows each barcamp to have a simple, hosted, lightweight site specific to their event with a custom url. As an example, check out the recent barcamp’s in http://barcampafrica.com/swaziland, http://barcampafrica.com/madagascar, or the upcoming http://barcampafrica.com/abidjan. Stories published on this site as well as others on the platform aggregate to the main BarcampAfrica.com page (as well as the Maneno home page) and are exposed to the larger audience of barcampers all over Africa.”

As someone who has helped put on a couple Barcamps, I’ve found that there are really two components. First is the simple organization, which self-organizes best around a wiki – specifically the Barcamp.org wiki. Second, is the communication to everyone else around the community of the upcoming event, done best with a dedicated blog/website.

This second area, communication, is where the greatest value for organizers will be found with the new Maneno hosting for Barcamp Africa. It will be with the those who simply want to setup a site that will get them good, dedicated exposure and allow multiple people to write on it, with updates on location, place, attendees and initiatives arising out of it.

For those who haven’t tried it, Maneno has an incredibly fast loading blogging platform, specifially designed for low bandwidth areas in Africa. On top of that, it is available in local African languages that have traditionally had little web presence. Articles can be easily translated between multiple languages and sit atop one another to overcome the linguistic divide facilitating open communication between the different communities.

If you’re interested in upcoming Barcamps around Africa, check out the Barcamp Africa calendar.

Bush-videostreaming at Barcamp Jozi

We had a great day 1 at Barcamp Jozi yesterday, and then a mad evening rushing around Johannesburg trying to find a good enough uplink connection to run the live streaming panel back to Barcamp Africa. We didn’t exactly succeed in live streaming, but the video will be uploaded shortly.

More importantly, we had an incredibly good time having the adventure, spending the evening having a conversation about mobile phones, the web and technology in Africa – all under the open skies of South Africa.


I can’t actually view the video, but if I could it would be at this link: Barcamp Jozi panel

Thoughts on Barcamp Africa

There has been a lot of talk in the Kenyan tech backchannels over the upcoming Barcamp Africa. Kahenya has a posted the email thread from the Skunkworks email list into his blog for further reading – it’s worth reading for context alone.

The two biggest points of contention seem to be over the name “Barcamp Africa”, with the conference being held in the US, and the fact that Google has agreed to sponsor the facility for it to take place in.

On the Name

The first thing I’d say is, don’t get caught up in the nomenclature on this one. Barcamp Africa happening in Silicon Valley is being put on by a couple people who are from Africa, or have a vested interest in what happens here.

From what I understand, it’s really only about drawing attention to African projects and initiatives in the world’s largest tech mecca: Silicon Valley. Could one/should one be held in Africa? Of course, but at a local, level like we already see in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, South Africa, etc. I’d also be interested in seeing one at a continental level, but so far haven’t seen anyone step up to take charge on that idea.

I know for a fact that Kaushal and Ellen specifically didn’t want to be the “owners” of Barcamp Africa as a name. From my conversations, they are hoping that other Barcamp Africa’s happen around the world (inside and outside of Africa). In fact, they wouldn’t even spend the $10 on registering the domain name, so I did that in their stead to make sure that no squatter would jump on it (it’s available to anyone who wants to use it).

On Google Sponsorship

As anyone who has put on a Barcamp knows, it does take having a couple sponsors to put on a free conference. They’ve been talking to almost every tech company in the Silicon Valley trying to get them to sponsor the event – by either providing facilities or money for food, etc. After a lot of work, Google finally came on board to sponsor the facility (and they’ve got one of the best facilities around), so it’s a big win.

Speaking of Google sponsorship of free tech events outside of the US, it should be noted that they happily sponsored our own Barcamp Nairobi in June, and showed up to participate in Barcamp Kampala in August. If anything, it should be the African tech companies who should be ashamed for not sponsoring their own local talent at these events.

On Africans in Africa Taking Part

I’ve added my two cents in with the Barcamp Africa team of creating some way for people from around the African continent to take part. One of those ideas would be to set up a live stream of what they’re doing, but that’s not truly interactive. What would be even better is for them to setup one of the rooms where people from Kenya (or elsewhere) could signup for a 20-30 minute spot to address everyone in the US. Then, when your slot came up you could give a Barcamp talk just like everyone else. It would require a certain amount of bandwidth of course, but might be just the type of thing to get everyone involved.

5 More African Conferences/Events

A few more conferences to add to my earlier list of events going on around the continent, though one is in the US and another is in Europe, and are about Africa.

In Africa

Tech4Africa – The Technology for Africa conference has a group of really interestin speakers from around the web, mobile and ISP space in Africa. A lot of grassroots guys who are actually doing things, intermixed with some international, and well-known, speakers.
Dates: October 3-4, 2008
Location: Johannesburg, South Africa

Int’l Bloggers Roadshow – Still being put together, it sounds like an interesting group of US-based big name bloggers will be heading to South Africa. More by Matthew Buckland.
Dates: Unannounced
Locations: Unannounced

FOSS4G (Free and Open-Source Software for Geospatial) – A meeting of international mapping gurus. Hopefully we can get some major African mapping work started here.
Dates: September 29 – October 3, 2008
Location: Cape Town, South Africa

In the United States

BarCamp Africa – Organized in California as a way to bring people interested in Africa, on a variety of levels and topics, together in one place for a day of exploration, connection and enjoyment. Some big Silicon Valley names are getting behind this. (more on Twitter, Facebook and the wiki). Note: not the real logo above, I made that up…
Dates: October 11, 2008
Location: Pending

In Europe

Surprising Africa @ Picnic’08 – A one-day program designed to inspire and update the Picnic public – creatives, innovators, trendsetters and technologists – with a range of cross media and culture happenings from various Africa countries. From South African urban identity photography to Ethiopian architecture, to mobile banking to Kenya (online) critical writing, amongst others.
Dates: September 26, 2008
Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands

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