Kenyans have been bragging of late how it is a force to reckon with in tech in Africa. VCs, Bloggers, Researchers, Tech Evangelists and others with interests in tech have touted the country as a must watch in the industry. The truth is that you cannot talk of serious use of tech, social media and web 2.0 in a manner which can easily be documented outside Nairobi. So while travelling to various parts of Kenya, we have tried to ask why the techies are getting it hard to even make the various counties tech communities active.
Mombasa tied and we documented the first serious trial. Kisumu is just in its initial stages of even calling the first tech community meetup in Nairobi. The main champions in Kisumu are just tech enthusiasts working with Safaricom, KDN and other telcos operating from the lakeside town.
Anyway, these are the reasons why we think that the techies are getting it hard outside Nairobi.
Getting a serious internet connection for mobile computing is a serious problem. Only Safaricom has a connection which is fast enough and can be used many towns in Kenya to have a serious social media or web 2.0 experience. The problem is that you will have to part with an arm and leg to get to benefit from the service. The amount charged for home internet is also very very expensive. It is not affordable to spend more than Ksh 15,000 outside Nairobi on internet connection while the return on investment is not something which can be talked about.
There is no tech community to talk about outside Nairobi, Kenya. There are talks of various county chapters trying to come together but none have seen the county communities become a reality. Forming such communities in Kenya is a real problem because of the division in our midst. There will always be some suspicion on the intention of the conveners. Also it is easy to organise the communities through a virtual platform. Regionally focused mailing lists or web platforms are non-existent.
3. Government Support
As much as the Kenya ICT Board would like us to believe that they are working hard, I believe that they are not. Some have given it the name ICT Board of Nairobi. Whenever they have tried to organise meetings in Mombasa or Naivasha, it is always to ferry the Nairobi group of politically correct people to the areas for some paid holidays and now for engagement and spreading of the ICT tentacles. You will have to be a very close friend of Paul Kukubo to ever get any sponsorship of an event you are trying to do outside Nairobi. Even Nairobi itself they choose areas in which they can have the engagement. Craft Silicon showed them that even slums accept the ICT evangelism. Kenya ICT Board will not hold any meeting in Buruburu, South B, Umoja, Zimmerman or even Kenyatta University.
4. Corporates Headquartered in Nairobi
According to Moses of MOSCOM Kisumu, the fact that you have corporates headquartered in Nairobi and none regionally, it is always automatic that most decisions are made in Nairobi and so the major communities will always want to be close to the decision makers. Some of the ICT companies should spread away from Nairobi though it doesn’t look possible considering the fact that a new Tech City is also being built in Nairobi.
Most graduates in ICT, Computer Science or informatics who works outside Nairobi are so scattered that they rarely get together. Moses again thinks that most of these techies rely on very primitive technologies to update themselves and so are not current enough. Some just practise what they learnt in the classroom while in the leisure time they would rather drink in their locals, farm or just sit around with the family.
We need more tech communities outside Nairobi and Microsoft, Intel and HP is doing great in spreading tech in schools outside Nairobi. They have more programs which you will not hear much of because they don’t brag much about them on mailing lists and fora. But these companies have supplied computers, built tech classrooms and even distributed software to schools in Kenya. Kenya ICT Board should stop being a members only club. Get to the counties and stop lazying in Nairobi thinking you are working hard. Work harder.
What do you think of the tech communities outside Nairobi? You have a reason why they don’t grow? Leave your comment below.