P=M*V, Momentum in classical mechanics is the product of Mass and velocity. It has been long time since I talked about the concept of momentum in the mechanics world and it is not the intention of the post, but the speed of movement of our IT industry. I had a discussion with friends about why we don’t see the momentum in ICT in Ethiopia. I have been trying to establish a dot net user group since 2008, and yet we are struggling to make one event happen. A friend at Microsoft in the neighboring Kenya told me that there are tens and hundreds of Windows phone applications in the Market from other African countries but none from here. For the imagine cup (students competition organized by Microsoft) we were trying to have students take part from here and for two years we didn’t succeed while two other African countries (Egypt and Algeria) take home winnings.

We can list lots of similar situations where we don’t see much of Ethiopian developers/students/ participation in local and international venue. I am not trying to list out the missed opportunities that could have benefited individual participants and boost the energy of the others. The picture to the right is taken few years back at an exhibition held in Addis Ababa to showcase IT solutions (hardware, software and training facilities). I didn’t even have the chance to see this years exhibition but from what I heard, specially the software section was not as good as what it used to be. I believe that drive of individuals is a major part of the company they work in. I just want to focus on individual momentum and the possible challenges in our context.

The first reason that could be a reason for lack of momentum is the problem of infrastructure. There are lots of arguments about this one but I will try to explain it. Imagine someone interested to discover the new windows 8 and build a metro style application. The first thing to do it get all the necessary resources starting from the developer preview of windows 8 ( which has Gb’s of size), then Visual studio 2012 developer preview and reading materials, video tutorials and similar things. The total download size could range from 4 to 6Gb of size, which is not feasible for a developer outside of an organization with broadband connection. Imagine another case where he wants to build a cloud based application. He/she has to be connected to create an account, build the app and test it. I don’t want to just point out the problems but also show possible ways of getting through it and obviously a solution for this is to get the downloads from a friend. This has been what I used to do before two years before changing my work place.

The second possible reason I think is lack of ‘inspiration’ for developers. For someone who doesn’t have internet connection to see what others are doing around the world, the only inspiration is seniors he/she know in the company. When I say inspiration, I saw yesterday on TV about a guy who shot innocents for nothing and was in a court room. A body language interpreter was saying that he’s trying to mimic ‘The Jocker’ we know on a movie. Most people need inspiration to get the momentum to accomplish something, to create to work hard … I used to have people that I look up to getting close to them when I started working. It feels good to talk to them and discuss technical issues, show them what I did and look at what they have done and all that. The chain is endless, the inspiring guy has his own inspirations in that field. Luckily this happened because i had the chance of working in a large organization full of senior developers. IMHO, for someone who is working in an organization as a ‘one-man-IT-department’ (we know that some organizations hire an IT guy to do the job of an IT department; network, website development, content development, system administration … ), this is not easy thing to achieve. This links to my last category-’community’.

Last, for this post only, reason is the fact that there is no community. I am sorry to to override the efforts we had to create a live community of developers but its clear that there is none. If we had a community of developers, it is easier to share ideas about new technologies, problems faced and the probable solutions and so much more. As described above, it is easier for people to get inspirational people in their field. It also relates to the first problem as there might be someone with the resources already at hand to share, the big organizations (Microsoft, Google and others) can also directly make available the resources. The solution for this is clear, to have a community and participate in it. However, that community of developers is none existent and we should be able to bring that. To create a community of developers we see in other countries might be against many issues we have here; economy and culture. Discussing about these problems is beyond the scope of the post.

In general, to bring the growth momentum of IT in Ethiopia , it is better to start from individuals. We should be able to ‘break the spell’ and go forward. Lets start by creating a community, share resources and get inspired.

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Behailu SHIFERAW is a software engineer and consultant based in Addis Ababa. He writes blog at livetocodedotnet.wordpress.com and tweets @Billelove