Interesting piece this past weekend in the Sunday Business section by New York Times contributing writer (on African themes) and journalism professor at Stanford University Gregg Zachary (check out his blog) on the emergence of an “underground Geek culture” in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. As he writes on his blog, the piece “… looked at the interaction between African aspirations for a greater role in the digital revolution and the engagement of leading technology agents, most notably Google, which has opened a development office in Nairobi and is hiring technical people from around Africa.” The larger question was to explore “… some of the dynamics of trying to innovate in unlikely places.”
Here’s an excerpt:
Consider Wilfred Mworia, a 22-year-old engineering student and freelance code writer in Nairobi, Kenya. In the four weeks leading up to Apple’s much-anticipated release of a new iPhone on July 11, Mr. Mworia created an application for the phone that shows where events in Nairobi are happening and allows people to add details about them.
Mr. Mworia’s desire to develop an application for the iPhone is not unusual: many designers around the world are writing programs for the device. But his location posed some daunting obstacles: the iPhone doesn’t work in Nairobi, and Mr. Mworia doesn’t even own one. He wrote his program on an iPhone simulator.
“Even if I don’t have an iPhone,” Mr. Mworia says defiantly, “I can still have a world market for my work.”