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Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Tag: technology (page 3 of 3)

30 Great African Tech Blogs

A conversation on Twitter with Marshall Kirkpatrick of RWW about the top tech blogs to read in Africa made me realize that there is no great list to start from. Most of us just have them in our head, RSS feeds or blogrolls. Some of them don’t update frequently enough, and many of the range across topics, but all of them are useful if you are trying to figure out what is going on in technology around Africa.

Here is a list of African tech blogs that I follow. Hopefully it can be a resource, and a good place for everyone to start from when exploring the mobile, web and general tech space in Africa:

General Web and African Tech

AfriGadget – Stories of low-tech African ingenuity and innovation
Afromusing – Juliana’s insights and thoughts on alternative energy in Africa
Appfrica – Pan-African and Ugandan web and mobile tech developments
Bandwidth Blog – Charl Norman’s blog in South Africa
Bankelele – One of East Africa’s top business bloggers, also has great insights into the business side of African technology
Build Africa – Matt’s musings on technology in Africa
Charl van Niekerk – Always insightful post from one of South Africa’s great coders
Coda.co.za – One of Africa’s very best web designers
Dewberry – Shaun’s frenetic blog on general, and South African tech
My Hearts in Accra – More of generalist these days, but excellent analysis of African tech space by Ethan Zuckerman
Henry Addo – A perspective on tech from Henry in Ghana
Geek Rebel – Henk’s blog on entrepreneurship and technology
Matthew Buckland – From one of the pioneers, and big thinkers, in the South African media space
Mike Stopforth – Entrepreneur and South African social media nexus point
Nubian Cheetah – Thoughts and news on West African tech
Oluniyi David Ajao – Web coverage from Ghana
Open Source Africa – Just what the name describes… talking about open source development in Africa
Paul in Sierra Leone – hardware tech news from a very hard place to get news/info from
Startup Africa – Tracking mostly South African web startups
Startups Nigeria – Just what the title says
Stii – One of my favorite true coder blogs out of South Africa
Timbuktu Chronicles – A must-read covering pan-African technology, from web to mobile to hardware
Bits/Bytes – Coding thoughts by the unique and always hilarious “M” from Thinker’s Room.
Vincent Maher – Vincent’s excellent, fun and controversial blog on all things South African tech
Web Addict(s) – From the mind of Rafiq, opinionated coverage and thoughts on South African tech

African Mobile-focused Blogs

Epic Mobile – mobile phone tips and tricks from South Africa
Jopsa.org – (aka Mobiles in Malawi), thoughts by Josh Nesbit in Malawi
Kiwanja – Ken Banks on mobile usage and his FrontlineSMS app, much of it in Africa
Mobile Africa – A great resource for mobile news across Africa
Mobility Nigeria – track what’s happening in the Nigerian mobile phone space
Fring – the only tool/app on this list

5 Non-blog Tech Sites and Tools for Africa

Afrigator – the defacto blog tracking tool for African blogs
Amatomu – the South African blogosphere tracker
Mobile Active – Katrin does a good job of finding reports and stories about mobiles in Africa
Muti – mostly South African tech news and gossip, a reddit/digg for interesting African news/blog links
Videoreporter.nl – Ruud’s videos consistently have great tech stories
Akouaba – A French language blog tracker for West Africa

The, “If I missed it”…

I likely missed many blogs that should be on this list. Please add them to the comments below. I know I’ve missed quite a few Francophone and Arabic ones, so PLEASE add those especially.

Additions (aka, ones I missed):

Many Possibilities – Steve Song on open source in Africa
Africa 2.0 – A French language blog talking about all things new media in Africa
Subsaharska – Miquel, building a blogging tool for Africa (Maneno)
Arthur Devriendt – French blog on web tech in Africa

Kenya – AITEC Africa

5 Examples of Student Ingenuity in Kenya

My good friend Josiah Mugambi in Nairobi was at the Kenya chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) exhibition in Nairobi last weekend. This is where students showcase their innovation in engineering, ICT, mobile application and renewable energy. He did me a great favor by sharing some pictures and research that he did on some of the really interesting students he came across.

1. MPESA Online Shopping

By Denis Ndwiga Nyaga

Safaricom CEO Michael Joseph was especially interested in this one for obvious reasons. Denis called it ‘nakupesi‘, Naku for Nakumatt (the local mega-store). nakupesi is an online shopping mall, with payment based on MPESA. One would need to be registered on MPESA to be able to pay for items online via MPESA. One thing that is possibly lacking is delivery to one’s residence or office after purchase. This shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate though.

2. Green Tree Markets – a Business Intelligence tool for farmers

By Andrew Owuor

This looked quite interesting – A business intelligence tool that allows a farmer to choose where to sell his produce based on price, and location. Some of the obstacles that the developer Andrew Owuor mentioned include the need for real time market data from markets round the country, for the system to be of use. This isn’t a completely new idea, but it’ll be interesting to see what local twists are created for East Africa.

3 more…

3. Automatic headlight dimming for two approaching vehicles – By Jemimah Wachenje
Jemimah has developed a system that automatically dips two vehicles head lights when approaching each other at night. Josiah has ranted about headlights before, and I agree, it would be very useful and potential could reduce some accidents on those dark lightless roads around Kenya.

4. Energy harvesting using piezos to charge mobile phones – by Richard Assanga Otolo and Gilbert Barasa
Very interesting, yet practical.

5. Synchronous Solar Heliostat – by Samuel Njoroge
Sammy Njoroge’s demostration of a synchronous solar heliostat used to track the sun, and orient a solar panel accordingly thus improving the efficiency of solar panels. Automatic tracking of the sun to increase the efficiency of solar panels, Makes economic sense. Innovation runs in the family it seems.

African Tech Events – Calendar

I’ve finally gotten around to adding a simple calendar of African technology events that are upcoming focused around the continent and abroad. The astute amongst you would notice it in the navigation above. It is meant to be a resource for others to find (and tell others of) conferences that they are interested in.



If you have an upcoming tech event, contact me and let me know the following information:

  • Name
  • Dates
  • Venue
  • City, Country
  • Website
  • Short summary of event

I know there are some Barcamps and local tech events upcoming around East and West Africa. Get them to me to add to the calendar. It seems like it’s all South Africa at the moment.

[sidebar: yes, I know it’s not pretty yet, I’ll get to that as I can… I’m using Dan’s Gigs Calendar WP plugin for this.]

Quick Hits Around Africa – Focus on Nigeria

Jeremy at the NaijaBlog talks about two eCommerce websites in Nigeria: Reloadng and Wishstop. He has another interesting one on a simple power solution for Nigeria.

Ethan Zuckerman is using Google Insight to look at what is most important in some African countries. Including the fact that one of the most searched for term in Nigeria is for email spam software. It’s not just Nigeria, but a strong focus in West Africa.

Oluniyi David Ajao talks about Automated Thieving Machines (ATMs) in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Washington Post writes about Reverse Brain Drain in Nigeria, where opportunity and money are drawing back the young businessmen and entrepreneurs from the West.

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.

Crossing the Mapping Chasm

As I was putting together my talk on “Activist Mapping” for Where 2.0, I realized that I was getting a little to fragmented in message. One of the areas I’m probably not going to have time to cover is what I consider the consumer-accessibility of mapping tools, so here it is.

Is There Something to be Learned from the Blogging Evolution?
In my last blog post I showed a slide talking about the timeline of major blogging engines. I did this because I was exploring a premise that there might be something in common with the way self-publishing tools on the web have developed, and the way mapping tools are developing. As I’ve dealt with mapping solutions on eppraisal.com and Ushahidi, I can’t help but think how powerful they are, but still so hard for a non-programmer to really master. The beauty of the blogging engines is that they finally created a way for an “ordinary” person to create a personal website.

Is this where mapping is in comparison?

When I look at that timeline, I wonder if we’re not in the same era with mapping that we were in with blog CMS tools back in the early 2000’s?

Comparing 3 Digital Activist Tools
As I was thinking about mapping, blogging and activism, I also thought about another one of the core digital tools that activist use worldwide: mobile phones. What would a simple comparison be between the 3?

Comparing blogging, mobiles and mapping for activists

Blogging’s learning curve is fairly shallow, if you can handle email or word processing, then you can understand how blogging works and do it. It’s middling when it comes to accessibility worldwide, due to bandwidth and PC requirements.

Mobiles are moderately hard to work into good activist campaigns, additional software can make this easier, but planning the campaign doesn’t necessarily take a technologist. Accessibility is widespread and simple to g

Getting from the Tech Elite to “Everyone Else”
Those thoughts led me to think about Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm book, where he talks about the difficulties of getting technologies to leap from the technology elite to the the masses. By anyones definition, I think we’ve seen that happen with blogging. Not so with mapping… yet.

Geoffrey Moore's Crossing the Chasm

Within the mapping ranks there are definitely those that are trying. Google’s My Maps and Platial/Frappr come to mind as I think of good examples of consumer-facing self-generated mapping applications. However, so much of what is being done (as cool/powerful/amazing as it is) is still only understood and grokked by the mapping gurus of the world.

This is seen first hand in what we had to do with Ushahidi. The ability to just create a map system that was even slightly geo-coded correctly for Kenya took a little work. Not everyone could just jump right in and mashup something as simple as that. Will it ever be as easy as jumping in and creating a blog, or will mapping always be a tech-centered effort?

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