Alright we are plugged in here all nerdy-style at BarCamp Jozi. I count 23 individuals with a smattering of laptops, video projection equipment, bean bags and enough genius-level brain power to light a couple cities.

11:30 am

The presentations so far have ranged from quantum computing to a debate why there are over 90 url shortening services on the web. Snurl was highlighted, but I gotta tell you, some of this discussion makes me feel like I skipped way to many classes in high school.

11:45 am

White African, aka Erik Hersman just walked through the door. I ran into him and Mike Stopforth last night at Capello’s in Sandton mall. We had a pretty good debate on African development.


There’s just been a raucous discussion as to the irony of BarCamp Africa being hosted in California. Someone suggested we re-name this unconference as BarCamp California. Natch.


Erik Hersman at BarCamp Jozi

Erik Hersman at BarCamp Jozi

Right before lunch, Erik Hersman is giving a speech on developing African apps for the West instead building apps that the average African can use. The majority of developers here develop for themselves but that is a very small addressable market. In order to develop usable grassroots applications, developers need to think outside their comfort zone. Basically, if you are going to develop apps for the typical Africans, then you must step into their environment to understand what it’s like to live without electricity and a basic cell phone. For a typical developer, that’s building apps in reverse. You have to understand what it is the local market here needs and what the most basic technology path available to build that app. You can’t build the apps because you think they are cool and expect immediate uptake. Build from the grassroots and make it easy from a deployment stand point.

Some success examples of this strategy include Africa’s banner projects; Kenya’s Ushahidi and South Africa’s Mxit among others.

Mike also has touched on the fact African developers need to build ahead of the curve. Anticipate what the locals need and use the competitive advantage of living here to get a head start on international competition. If international competition enters the space, then they take the profits out of Africa.


Danie (middle), White African, and Rabble (far right)

After lunch, more discussion about web application development environments. I am still amazed at the number of intellectual people assembled here. Evan Henshaw-Path, aka Rabble, a long-time Yahoo developer and the brains behind stopped in after a long flight from Paraguay for a quick chat on his latest projects. More from him MobileActive08 next week.