In Order To Build The Afrikan Software Engineering Ecosystem, We Need To Share And Learn From Each Other

In Steve Case’s book, The Third Wave: An Entrepreneur’s Vision for The Future, he outlines the different waves that have defined the Internet and laid out the foundation for the explosive technological innovation that we experience today.

The first wave — building the internet — lasted between 1985-1999, and was largely driven by People, Products, Platforms, Partnerships, Policy and Perseverance. Steve Case outlines a few companies that were pivotal to the success of that era – Cisco, IBM, Apple, AOL, Sprint and Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle).

The second wave — the app economy and mobile revolution — ran from 2000 through to 2015, and this wave was driven by People, Products and Platforms.

The third wave — Internet of Everything — started in 2016 and is currently ongoing.

I’m more interested in the first wave and how it relates to the Nigerian technology ecosystem. I’m really interested in the People aspect of things, specifically how technology startups in Nigeria and Africa at large can bolster the engineering community around us. While other components that makes for a successful ecosystem are equally as important, I choose to focus on engineering because not only is it my forte, it’s one of the critical components of every successful technology startup.

Engineering is a major differentiator between successful startups and the average ones. As Jeff Bezos rightly puts it, it’s what separates the A players from the B players.

In all of this, how are we as a community faring with all things engineering? How much are we giving back as individuals and organisations? Is this something tech startups in Nigeria and Africa actively think about?

I love how companies in the Valley, Europe and South East Asia are deliberately building their engineering culture. These companies do this through a couple of ways; tech talks, engineering blogs, open source, etc. They share their problems, pain points and solutions.

This is one surefire way of building a community. A community is not people doing things in silos and calling it an “ecosystem.” Netflix holds tech-talks and invites Uber engineers to speak. They move this further by sharing core components of their infrastructure. It’s only in sharing that we can truly build a sustainable ecosystem and also move the needle a notch higher.

Apache Kafka, a core component of distributed computing, was built in-house by LinkedIn. They shared it and everyone is benefiting today. For a second, imagine if Google kept Angular and Kubernetes to itself and Facebook kept React to itself. Think about it.

A few days ago, Neo Ighodaro, CTO of Hotels.ng, tweeted about Watch Dog, a monitoring tool they built in-house that sends critical alerts to Slack and every stakeholder. Not only did they write about this tool, they went ahead and made it open source. To say I was excited will be an understatement. That tweet literally made my day.

While the Nigerian and African tech needs funding, the need for actual engineering collaboration and sharing cannot be overemphasised. If you’ve solved a major problem; optimisation, security, scalability, experimenting with a new tech, write about it. Share.

While I’m not oblivious to the Dunning-Kruger effect, you will be surprised at how many people will learn and benefit from this gesture. Building out your own CI/CD pipeline? Write about it. Wrote an amazing configuration management for your servers? Share it. Talk!!! Found a new way to minimise latency by 3%? Write about it. Talk. Mitigated a DDoS? Write about it.

We need more African tech startups writing about their processes, product design methodology, software engineering practises, opening up their APIs. More startups holding community events to talk about technologies they are exploring or currently using in production. Enough of gathering people for product pitches.

In 2017, there should be just as much tech talks and articles. I think we have enough fundraising articles.

PS: I recognise and celebrate the great work of foorLoop, GDGs, African Git Meetup(shameless plug, that’s me) all of the individual contributors to OSS and everyone writing one technical article or the other, you’re all rockstars.
Hotels.ng, CcHub thank you for giving out your spaces. We need these supports.

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