Leila C. of Samasource at Facebook Developers Garage in Kampala, Uganda
Leila C. of Samasource at Facebook Developers Garage in Kampala, Uganda

This morning I had an opportunity to be featured on The Hugh Macken Live radio show. Actually should I say, Leila Charayath Janar—who I interviewed last year at the Facebook Developer’s Garage in Uganda, was the featured guest. Myself, along with one Maria Umar from Pakistan were there for support.

I have to say that Samasource has given me the opportunity to feed my two loves: economic development in Africa and my work as a creative professional. Yes, they may sound completely unrelated fields but that’s the beauty of Samasource. If you have the passion to do something socially responsible, they’ll find a way to accommodate your field of work. From transcription, to business processing, to computer application development, Samasource has the ability to cater to your needs while actively creating employment opportunities in emerging markets.

Samasource enables marginalized people, from refugees in Kenya to women in rural Pakistan, to receive life-changing work opportunities via the Internet. The core of this concept is microwork – little bits of labor that can be performed anytime and anywhere that add up to a real livelihood for our partners. In parallel, we enable socially responsible companies, small businesses, nonprofits, and entrepreneurs in the US to contribute to economic development by buying services from our workforce at fair prices.

As a designer and web developer, it’s fulfilling to have the ability to tap into great developers and put really marginalized individuals to work in Africa, thereby merging my two passions. My work at TMS Ruge Media and Project Diaspora couldn’t be more diametrically opposed, but in a way, they are a means to each others end. Project Diaspora was started on the premise that it’s time Africa’s development emerge at hands of the great work it’s Diaspora is engaging in. In a way, I am fulfilling that mission as a member of that Diaspora.

It’s a far better feeling to me, putting Africa to work than donating money to a hunger cause or joining yet another awareness campaign. To me, this is Africa working, this is Brand Africa rising in the digital age and on par with it’s Western counterparts. I look at the quality of the work under development and I am taken aback a little.  What’s also amazing is that the finished product is indistinguishable from the quality of my American-based programmer, (@DVaint), and he is really, really good. In fact, he was my only coder for over nine years! It’s not because I doubted that his replacement could be found in Africa, but the complete satisfaction with the results as well.

It’s led me to think, imagine if we could multiply that experience across multiple coding teams in Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, even Eritria; all working on game-changing projects and pioneering innovations far greater than Status.ug, MXit or Ushahidi! What happens when all of that collective intelligence and talent starts contributing it’s resources to the global economic landscape? The next 25 years are going to be interesting in the digital landscape over Africa. Already, we are seeing hubs of excellence rising from whence there was nothing to speak of; the rubble of Kenya’s oft-talked about post-election violence, gave rise to Ushahidi; Johannesburg and Cape Town are already well-reknown as hubs for excellent software companies; even Uganda’s recent riots in the capital shed light on Kampala’s underground digirati who used digital tools to provide eye-witness accounts of the violence in the absence of mainstream media. Increasingly, it seems that innovation in Africa is borne out of necessity to respond to injustice. Given the rise of a digital working class, how long before innovation in Africa is driven by the hunger to excel?

So if you are a development-minded or a member of the African Diaspora and would like to give work as your mission to do good or put Africa’s idle talent, please contact Leila at Samasource. If you don’t have a project that Samasource can assist you in staffing, you can also donate to help them continue their work putting emerging markets to work.

I’ll be revealing the two projects under production at Samasource next month. So check back on a full-post on both projects next month.

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