First Barcamp

James Mlambo

History was made on 03 August 2011 at the beautifully Harare sports club when Zimbabwe first ever barcamp was held. To add icing on the cake, a startup challenge where entrepreneurs with innovative web and mobile products showcased their stuff in a challenge bankrolled to the tune of $25000 by Zimbabwe Online (ZOL).

It was clearly evident at the barcamp that Zimbabwe indeed has got lots of talent. Anyone who thought Zimbabwe techies are sleeping  on their laurels has been proven wrong. At the start of the barcamp speaker after speaker spoke flowery about how Kenya has become the ICT hub in Africa. However as the barcamp reached fever peak one speaker  politely derided participants to stop talking about Kenya and instead speak on what we as Zimbabweans can do to emerge as another ICT hub. Soon after, the startup challenge started. Patrons at the Keg and Maiden bar at first mistook us as some visiting Google geeks brainstorming just because participants in the startup challenge were full of energy as they proffered Zimbabwean solutions to Zimbabweans problems. It was a marvel to watch youths and young adults make their pitches. Every participant in the challenge sprung a surprise. Participants had interesting products ranging from sms telephone directory to virtually desktops, low cost rural broadband to 3D modeling softwares.

One aspect that marveled me was the presence of Zimbabweans who once lived in the diaspora. The physical presence of former diasporas added sparkle to the barcamp. What is currently happening in Zimbabwe is a phase which has already elapsed in some countries in America, Europe and Asia and so the former diasporians really added immense significance and impetus to the barcamp. In addition former diasporia  voice is required to some issues that will soon emerge in the country such as identity theft, hacking, internet governance, M4D etc.  One diasporians spoke at length on how to make money online. This is one issue that daunts many Zimbabweans in the country. He gave many interesting exhaustive examples of Zimbabweans in the diaspora making big buck online. Any resident Zimbabwean with internet access who heard or could have heard this former diasporian speak might stop wasting bandwidth using facebook and do other stuff online to make money.

I just pray that such initiatives as the barcamp continue. It was really a perfect start for the country to become an ICT hub in the region. A big thank you to both the organizers and sponsors. You really mean ACTION. Barcamp + Startup challenge really showed that the organizers really mean business. The first barcamp was not reduced to a mere talkshop.

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