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“Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

― Rob Siltanen


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The Great Divide

This is an exciting time for technology, but then again that statement is true for every period of humanity since we found fire. We have a thing for moving forward, that said since the 1900’s some really awesome things have been happening. Almost all of it fueled by war or the rumour of war but it legitimately is an awesome time to be a techy.

It’s even considered sexy now.

In the midst of all this sexy is a sad reality. This progress is not enjoyed the same across the globe. The nature of the technological landscape is such that devices, applications and content created in the developed world, trickle their way downward to the rest of us, lesser mortals. Sure this is down to structural limitations that exist in our countries that stop us from being up to speed but beyond that, those creating the awesome stuff, have a specific customer demographic in mind. Hint, hint, it’s not us.

This trend is clear in just about every major sector of technology, like phones for instance. Majority of the applications created seek to deliver content or services over a data connection, this makes sense because if you look at the United States, data is cheap and fast(3G is just about standard now for telecom companies). So much so that applications have come up that deliver over a data connection, services which were formerly the bread and butter of Telecom companies such as voice and instant messaging. Applications like Viber and Whatsapp allow for text messaging and calling as long as you have a solid internet connection, with both services delivered at a cheaper rate than normal voice calls or SMS.

Other popular applications like Instagram, snapchat and facebook are designed with a specific way of life in mind making them insignificant to consumers from other parts of the world.

Trends in computing and the development of personal computers as well goes to show an industry that assumes it’s consumers only come from the North America, Europe and Asia. The latest laptops feature touch enabled screens and Microsoft’s latest operating system is designed with a vision that seems to believe the future is touch and applications will be delivered over the internet. This might be true but the nature of these advances clearly doesn’t take into account other environments where maintaining a touch screen device might or be a pain or the costs of running an operating system entirely reliant on the internet for operation.

In industry as well, while analysts wax lyrical about a fully computerised production system, these systems are modeled on the assumption that a fully computerised support ecosystem exists, one that includes customers and suppliers.

The assumption of the existence of this ecosystem, a world where everything and everyone is online, has also led to a trend where almost all average everyday activities from shopping to public transport, are getting more and more reliant on computer systems.

Currently online payment systems based on credit cards are necessary for just about any transaction online. Even with the implementation of VISA enabled debit cards by majority of Uganda’s banks, most of them cannot be used for online transactions, and those that can carry a hefty charge.

Are we to bury our heads in the sand then? And weep while the rest of the world proceeds at break neck speeds technologically?. Far from it.

Firstly, these companies are not wrong to focus on consumers in the developed world because they account for the bulk of their profits, it’s true, we’re not a big deal when it comes to technology. And while majority of these applications and devices were not developed with the African consumer in mind, this has not stopped us from taking them and making them our own.

Facebook is now thinking of going mobile, we knew facebook needed to go mobile years ago, sure it was because we had no laptops but we called dibs on the idea. Sticking with facebook, while the developed world was posting pictures of kittens, north africa unfriended their old governments through facebook.

Google recently rolled out offline mode as a default feature for all applications hosted on the Google Apps Engine. Offline mode allows you to continue using your application like normal when your internet connection goes down(it goes without saying, this does not include communication apps). They were probably inundated by complaints from users with spotty internet connections, most of those users were probably from the third world.

Google Africa is also continuing work on technology that will allow sms integration into GMail.

And while online payments using VISA enabled cards is far from a convenient reality in sub-saharan Africa, online payments using mobile money is already happening. Through mobile money, sub-saharan africa has the chance to create a viable alternative to the credit card system which has been a hindrance to online trade for a long time in the region.

Technology, applications and hardware are created to meet a specific need, consumer technology more so. The African story is one of adaptation and innovation. We are hacking together solutions with the parts from technologies that do not suit our situation, and sometimes creating new solutions altogether. With users and developers who, often with little resources have found new uses for technology they should ideally have no use for.

Much of the technology(and business) world is now paying attention to Africa and the emerging markets because this is in a sense the final frontier, the last possible source of real growth as a large affluent middle class emerges. But what they are finding is not a virgin market in it’s true sense, instead it is a continent writing a new set of rules. Tired of waiting and watching, we have evolved.

On the surface, Africa is playing catch up, but if you take a deeper look, this is a continent actively and aggressively creating it’s own identity on the global technology scene. TIA

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Music to my ears

I remarked to a close friend recently about how angry i’d get if local stores played BoneyM christmas music on repeat again like they did last year. Luckily none of that will be heard this weekend when i go to watch the awesome Kampala singers perform. 
And best of luck to the particularly talented Mirembe and Edith who were nice enough to send me this introduction to their crew.

Kampala Singers’ Christmas Season
By Susan Kimbowa
The Kampala Singers, a group of professional and amateur singers, has been performing since the 1950’s and has introduced many residents of Kampala to the world of classical music. 
For the last few years, they have had two major season performances in the year; Easter and Christmas, where they have hosted classical music enthusiasts for an evening of great performances.
The choir dedicates a great amount of time to be able to deliver breathtaking performances. 
They usually take off two months to prepare for one hour of music, even with amateur musicians, the dedication is clear in the performance. 
Easter season this year brought us a performance of Mozart’s Missa Brevis in B flat, with a couple of well delivered negro spirituals, that had the audience begging for an encore. 
For the Christmas season, the Kampala Singers accompanied by Kampala Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Fred Kiggundu Musoke, will perform Mendelsohn’s hymn of praise and other season hymns to usher in the Christmas season.
The performance will be held at the St. Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe an old church with the perfect atmosphere and acoustics for a live presentation. The shows are scheduled for 7pm on Saturday 30th November and 5:30pm on Sunday 1st December 2013 
See you there! . Entrance is free, grab a couple of fellow enthusiast

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One Monday Morning

I normally work all night on Sundays(like i am now), so i can take Monday morning off. Cant think of a better way to start the week.

Last Monday was different though, i joined a good friend of mine Sidi as mentors at the Raise Program. It is an education and career guidance programs that runs during the holidays and selected days during the school term, teaching kids of all ages skills they wouldn’t otherwise learn in class. It exposes them to a lot that they will need to succeed and hopefully gives them the courage to go after their dreams aggressively.
I always think back to that afternoon Patrick Bitature came to Namilyango and shared about his past and the drive he had to get to where he is. Made a huge impact on me, and continues to do so in many ways. Not just him but so many others, Herbert Kamuntu who was the logistics manager(and my department head) during my time at Coca Cola Sabco whose management style still serves something to aspire to personally. This would be an endless list of people. So many have in various ways contributed not just to who i am but also to who i aspire to be.
So on Monday, after sitting through a session where the kids were taught basic ways to identify your passion, followed a meet and greet where they could come up to us and ask us anything. I can only hope what Sidi and i shared inspired one child, even if just one, not to necessarily get into computing but the benefits of passion, honesty and hard work.
That for me was one Monday morning well spent

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Dedicated to your unfinished poems, notes, writings…

This is dedicated to your unfinished poems.
those brilliant flashes of genius,
streaks of literary wizardry that came spewing forth on some idle Tuesday afternoon.
Just a few unfinished lines,
brilliantly incomplete like an unfinished love affair.
Meeting again after all that time, you wonder if you could,
just maybe, possibly, pick it up again,
follow the perfect opening act,
write a sequel to a master piece,
and risk tarnishing greatness with mediocrity.
You try to revisit you back then,
but it isn’t the same,
the sun shines differently today,
the tracks your old train of thought followed have faded.
So you let it lie, and turning away, channel your inner Bogart and say,
as nonchalantly as can be faked,
“we shall always have Paris”


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