“African innovators need to embrace open source.”
The fourth industrial revolution is here and at the heart of its engine the internet. Everyone be it from the rich west or the poor third world wants a piece of the pie but the question is “What are doing right to merit its. That is my question to my African brothers. Are we ready to do what it takes and sacrifice what needs to be taken so as we may be called pioneers. I am talking of sacrifice because that’s what made the internet what it is today; “the sacrifice of ego.”
The very basic drive of the internet’s growth is obviously its openness and the speed at which information and knowledge are shared on this amazing platform. This I believe is due to its academia background where the only way to prove your worth is to share your research freely so it can be put to test, scrutinized and improved by the scientific community. Yes sharing your vision and discoveries is the key to even greater things, things we can not imagine. The problem is we don’t have such thing in Africa since we don’t also have a very large academia body. Say how many mathematics PhD. holders on this continent regularly write dissertations about advanced topics? I haven’t done the research but I doubt there many to make me count.
So where is our hope, it is with the 60% and more of the African population(which is projected to grow even more) who are under 35. And who are adopting technology related fields at an amazing pace. IT subjects are being introduced at universities here and there, even the best US universities in the field are giving their contribution(@cmu_africa). The first African unicorn Jumia already making millions in e-commerce.And according to Quarts’s article “The number of tech hubs across Africa has more than doubled in less than a year”, the number of hubs has increase from the previously recorded 177 to 300 last year. This brings to my last point. “ Without a culture of sharing all this is a dream in the mist waiting to be blown away by the winds of challenge.
Yes our academia body is to small to en-root the culture of sharing but hey this Africa, our forefathers had this rooted in the core of the lives. The proof of this is the similarity between the tools used in different societies of precolonial Africa in-spite of the continent’s size.So this is a pledge to the youngsters in the hubs: Please learn from your ancestors and share your code with that friend sitting next to you. And if you make a breakthrough please think of way you can opensource it, you will be amazed at how many applications of your product you had not thought of. And you will have made the greatest impact in the process. You can even collaborate with others to develop better products on top of the improved platform.
And lastly a message to our beloved telecoms(MTN, Tigo, Airtel,…) we all know that the pace of mobile money adoption in Africa has amazed even the greatest leaders in tech. And you guys hold the key to its future(for the moment) but don’t think you are the status quo even Yahoo didn’t know its end would be so painful. Open platforms would bring you great innovations at no expense, on the other hand if you don’t open you will get disrupted and become obsolete. So please stop being bullies to the progress of Africa and make your mobile money APIs public.
Lets create knowledge platforms not knowledge black holes.