I'm in Nairobi, Kenya this week attending a fantastic event called NexTech Africa. It is a free event that showcases the best of what Africa's Startup community has to offer. This event is mostly focused on East Africa's tech community but it included delegates from all over the continent. I'm told over 1000 people are here.
My wife is Zimbabwean and we have family all over in places like South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe, and friends in a dozen other countries. I personally feel that access to technology and technical education is a fantastic way to help Africa's burgeoning middle class.
However, this trip was for listening. It's silly for me (or anyone who isn't living on the continent) to fly in and "drop the knowledge" and fly out. In fact, it's condescending. So I'm spending this week visiting startups, talking to engineers, university students, and tech entrepreneurs.
I spoke at length with the engineers at BRCK, a Kenya-based startup that has a "brick" that's a portable router, NAS, Compute Module, Captive Portal, and so much more. They can drop one of these a little outside of town and give wi-fi to an entire area. Even better, there could be hyper-local content on the devices. Folks with 30+Mbps Internet may be spoiled with HD content, but why not have a smart router download TV shows and Movies that can be served (much like movies stored on an airplane's hard drive that you can watch via wi-fi while you fly) to everyone in the local area. The possibilities are endless and they're doing all the work from hardware to firmware to software in-country with local talent.
I also visited iHub's Technology Innovation Community and saw where they teach classes to local students, have maker- and hacker-spaces, support a UXLab and host local tech meetups. I'll be hopefully communicating more and more with the new friends I've met and perhaps bring a few of them to the podcast so you can hear their stories yourself.
These are uniquely African solutions to problems that Africans have identified they want to solve. I am learning a ton and have been thrilled to be involved. Since I focus on Open Source .NET and .NET Core, I think there's an opportunity for C# that could enable new mobile apps via Xamarin with backends written in ASP.NET Core and running on whatever operating system makes one happy.
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