What it means to be a tech blogger in a third world country

It’s 5am in the morning, and the only thing that’s keeping me awake is the glowing screen of my Android smartphone. I’m typing away on a story about the on-going legal spat between a local carrier and the Government. Some may say it’s unbearable to type a long document on a small screen of a smartphone but I’ve been doing this for quite a while now.

Maybe that’s because any writer/reporter in the world loves to have an audience to write to.

It’s largely the same with any performer, artist, actor et al regardless of where they come from. You have that something you have a passion about that represents you in so many ways, and in a willingness to share it you’re bound to look for people you can relate to.

But what happens when your audience requires insane levels of patience and attention? It becomes, in some way, draining or rather daunting.

I share some of those experiences, those moments that you always wished you had the chance to express a point without restraint or holding back, especially those holes created by classical cases of miscommunication, and I wish to share some of those experiences in this post.

A little backstory

As mentioned in the title, I write about technology in a third world country, in Africa, a continent that has so much promise in rivaling some of technology’s biggest markets like Asia. The continent is big on mobile payments, with startups like M-Pesa and others, bridging the gap between daily transactions and easily banking your money on your mobile phone.

Technology has always fascinated me in more ways than one, how it enables so many opportunities for so many people.

I have been going through computer science classes since high school and I continue to spend most of my time dedicating to the subject. For the past three years, that included starting out a blog that focuses on consumerism and trends, and it is through all that that I’m learning so much about how technology is adopted and embraced locally.

Growing up, I was never raised with so many constraints created by boundaries — on a social level. That is not to say there weren’t any. It was just that it meant I was blessed enough to be able to grow up in an environment that allowed to me to believe I could achieve anything that I put my mind to. With technology, I believe this could open up the same mindset for so many people in third world countries.

Disparity

When you write about tech in a third world country you’re trying to talk to an audience that doesn’t necessarily take technology as a priority, at least at first. That is subjective, though, varying with different regions, but this is mainly the case in countries running through some economic instability.

This means you have to find workarounds to get noticed or to obtain a loyal readership because technology is not so mainstream. When a product launches, it takes some time for the news to cycle and sometimes it may not even reach that many people because the interest just isn’t there. But that has been changing lately, for the better.

Through social media, more micro-news pages and accounts are being created and that is also thanks to relatively cheaper hardware that is being sold. You can easily publish a post and channel it through social media and reach out to even more readers.

I guess it also makes sense that Facebook, the social media giant, is looking to bring more native news content to people’s news feeds. In some ways, it makes it more convenient to get content on the fly. In third world countries most people get their news from social networks and if they are compelled enough they click through the link to get to the main news page.

But for blogs and major publications that is bad news. Very bad news. Traffic for blog and news sites used to bring people together, comment on the issues in the comments section where the topic was discussed. Now it means clicking on the link from say the News Feed (if you’re lucky), and going back to what it is you were doing or discussing on social media. For relatively new blogs and news sites that is far worse than your average horror story.

You can’t compete with quality

Deciding upon what to write about is probably the biggest hurdle when covering technology in a nascent market. The content should resonate with your readers in a way they can relate to. That, is a given.

For example, when writing about technology products, the products that surround you do not have a lot to set them apart, it makes it even hard to write a review. It probably won’t even be the first thing that comes to the consumer’s mind when they enter a store, the decision has to be made on the spot depending on what’s available. It means you have a narrow vantage point on what to cover, with so little in common with your readership.

But that will likely change in the next few months and years, when adoption reaches new heights. That is mirrored by the growing numbers of mobile penetration and computer literacy (let alone the coding lessons making their way to most communities). It makes me feel lucky to be documenting some of those efforts, that one day could be read by generations to come.