Thursday, July 7, 2011

Social Media School: Bar Camp Dar Es Salaam

I'm attending: Google's Bar Camp Dar es Salaam. What is this beast, you ask? I am told that it is an "unconference": an organic collection of people with similar interest who present to each other, discuss presentations and move between simultaneous events as needs dictate. At least, that's what it says on paper.

The good thing is that this is an event organized for and by techies to bring the Dar es Salaam community together. The not-so-good thing is that as a non-techie I am having a little trouble understanding which way is up. So far topics of interest that have come up address various organizations plans to develop software and services for African markets, with a very heavy emphasis on the business side of things: everybody is looking for customers. Fair enough. Most interesting so far in this area was a presentation from PAYU Computing, who are working on a way to make computers accessible to people very affordably by bypassing the hardware cost. It is a fantastic idea.

What else I have learned: Africa is a big, fat, untapped market for ICT. Google is working on establishing its Africa presence. Which is a massive industrial and employment opportunity. Lots of for-profit interest in that, naturally, but also a human welfare angle in the concern with how ICT can materially improve the quality of life of its users. Ultimately the common goal is faster, cheaper, seriously accessible internet and ICT services/products for as many people as possible that will (hopefully) do good. What's not to love?

Okay, now let's talk about actually being one of the lucky millions who are on this cutting edge of ICT receptivity. As a semi-techliterate user and independent content producer, I have a couple of questions. Such as: in Tanzania, a country with a functional literacy rate that is in serious trouble, how does the tech community cope (or not)? Follow up: what do techies project in terms of user interfaces, content type etc in the next ten years, considering that we don't read too good and it's not going to get better for a little while? Finally, a question about security: what about the effect of ICT and specifically social media on citizens' privacy, especially as we bank online and have phones that give geodata and so on and so forth...

And then, an even bigger question: as we millions get online, whose content will we be consuming, and to what ends? Intellectual products, arts and culture, entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship? Having worked through the tech-heavy presentations I think I might have finally found the niche that Bar Camp Dar has offered as an opportunity: content producers unite. There are platforms out there looking for your work. Gotta race the clock: trying to wrap up here and have a content producers/platform owners meet-n-greet over lunch. Wish us luck.


  1. Great post. "Google's Barcamp Dar es salaam" is incorrect Barcamp Dar is not a Google event, though it was sponsored by Google along with other companies which we greatly appreciate. Also, the event was organized by team members with various backgrounds, just not techbots. (Lord knows I am so not techie!)

  2. @Miz K8: so noted. branding, such an interesting problematic, eh? especially in the communications industry.

  3. Thanks for the wonderful article, even if I am not a techie person but I can relate this article Thanks!


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