Autobiography of this Kenyan Computer User

Greetings salutations, and spring greetings! I am back.

In the last week or so, I have been learning a tremendous amount of info on the explosion of the internet in Africa, and have heard leapfrogging heralded as the next frontier for our continent. I could not help but reflect on my own evolution in the last few years.

So after looking at some of the reference articles on the subject, I heartily concluded that there is a great need to tap into the fastest growing tech spots on the market. Mobile phones and the internet. When I returned home last year, I found that many of the computers and gadgets that many of my classmates and friends have here are available on the Kenyan market. So much is the infiltration of these products, but there are the chargers and adapters that make the differing electric specs fluid. Pretty standard stuff. I also found that very many people had internet email access, or at least went online to check their messages and to keep in touch with people abroad.

Before I get into that, however, I have to add that there has been more than just a small attempt to kill our traditional values such as self reliance in society, through the development project, that is meant to rid Africa of its poverty. Dont get me wrong, we need the aid like a thirsty man needs his water, but Africa and other developing regions, affectionately referred to as the Third World, have to see that we have lost our ability to self regenerate.Like this blogger, who has started many posts and left them mid sentence, so are many of the projects that development aid began. They sounded like a great idea when they were started, but they went into two and then three paragraphs(years and decades) and now they are all the way in the pipelines, the seeds of great plans that just fell off by the wayside. I am guilty or abandonment,a nd neglect, even though nobody pays me to air my opinions to the world, let alone to the tune of the millions that the West paid out to African governments to build dreams.

To many of those who are fortunate enough to breathe the fresh air and eat the yummy organic food in Kenya right now, I suppose rehashing these facts is rather redundant, but would you be surprised to know that up to date, people still ask whether I have access to the internet back home in Africa, and whether I know about global events.This information, is for the many who have questions about that.

I shall attempt to build a profile of an internet user in Nairobi, based on my previous experiences.

Pre-1999 Watching other kids at school play Tombraider Version 1 and wishing I had a clue how to use a keyboard to type. Dream for when I grow up, learn to be a fast typist, maybe administrative assistant.

1999-2000
I was finishing primary school and found it fascinating that a few entrepreneurs had started internet cafes in the neighborhood charging KSh 2.50 a minute.  My first question going into these cafes was whether I would have to pay to get an internet address. At the time, I had a cafe assistant help me to login and get my first Yahoo account. I am thrilled, after all, I am on top of the tech world. I see $$$$ in one day opening a cyber too, with wireless no less.

2000-2003
High school days. So now, I have an internet address, but no way to access the internet from boarding school, so I am limited to the breaks in between school terms. My first attempts to program in my high school computer class. C++ decidedly makes me cry. I continue to program theoretically.On the outside world, access charges per minute drop between KShs 1 and less in certain cafes. Dream for future career is much larger, perhaps to be an advocate for intellectual property rights, having seen an abundance of pirated CDs and movies trade hands. Most prolific are the cyber cafes with resident music burning youth who charge Ksh 100 for almost a GB of music.

Post 2003.
I learn that all websites open differently in cybercafes depending on the browser. My typing speed increases, as I spend all my ‘chips’ money on checking email. There is never enough time to do all that I want online. I notice the increase in the number of cafes in the city center that have private booths. In my naivety I assume, that like me, many people do not like the inbuilt nature of people at the cybercafe to read over their shoulder to the windows to the left and the right of them. Not wanting to be an advocate any longer. I pen this blog response about how I want to work in a cyber and there are few people who take women in computing seriously if at all.

FForward to 2007: I met more than a few people in KE  who proved me otherwise when I sat down to hear about their innovation; from Kenya-centric client side applications; the urgency of understanding IPv6 and migrating by the new dates. There are trained and passionate people in tech in Kenya. Here in the US, everyone with a M$oft frontpage thinks that they can create websites, but at home, I saw that not only are many designers working without many of the pricey software applications, but being innovative, but more than adept as open source software creation and integration.

My pride about being Kenyan is those working tirelessly to make those technology ideas come out of the discussion rooms and the thoughts to the forefront. And yes, few are willing to pay the initial costs, but we will reap a certain reward. Hongera!(Congrats) Kenya

Reflective: So there has been a marked hiatus from blogging, but I am happy to report that I am back. I realized when I do not blog there has to be an outlet, and I have yelled at trees for many many weeks without a few typekeys for my beloved blog.

I have to thank M for the poem on “Beginnings” that truly reflects how I went through a very positive reflective moment thinking of how life is precious. I regret nothing. I have opportunities and I will be the first to admit that I will be there, counting my blessings!

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One thought on “Autobiography of this Kenyan Computer User

  1. After reading White Africans blog and projects such as Ushahidi I am now pretty convinced that there is huge opportunity in terms of mobile phones and the internet.
    These tools I think we who are in the diaspora can use to impact huge change in Africa without ever leaving the West.

    There is also the use of mobiles for social networking, small businesses etc. The sky is the limit.

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