TechCamp highlights that tech is a means, not an end
A TechCamp is a disruptive event characterized by two-way communication, in which participants bring real experience and problems to the table. Unlike a typical conference, there are no long rants from the big stage, nor sleepy debates with panelists speaking in generalities. Its purely practical focus is facilitated for the benefit of participants and interactive solution-based discussions dominate.
From June 5-6, 2014 in Mozambique Mathias Antonsson, Making All Voices Count and Ushahidi’s Innovation Programme Manager discussed crowdsourcing and community engagement, alongside Ushahidi’s Angela Oduor who spoke on data mapping, at this exciting event. Also in attendance were Mozambican civil society actors, NGO’s, techies and journalists.
Kicking off with speed-geeking sessions, all trainers were given five minutes to present and pitch on their area of expertise. These included blogging, mobile apps, crowdfunding, citizen journalism, social media, community radio and digital security. Based on these pitches the participants picked two sessions to partake in where they received a more in-depth presentation followed by discussions. The afternoon was spent discussing challenges the participants are facing, which was then turned into problem statements.
Day Two was focused on these problem statements. A few examples include how to monitor the upcoming Mozambican election, as well as how to reduce corruption and poaching. Most were closely related to the Making All Voices Count topic of how to improve transparency, accountability and governance. After, participants split into small groups with one trainer and spent the day breaking down the issue and brainstorming possible solutions.
This practical approach was humbling for both participants and trainers alike, as the devil is in the details, and there are many problems to overcome as you breakdown an idea to something that is implementable. It also produced some interesting ideas, whose implementation will be truly exciting to follow in the months to come. One of these will be further explored through a hackathon hosted by the TechCamp team, so stay tuned.
In a country like Mozambique, where about 4% of the population have internet access through a computer or smartphone, and where mobile penetration is about 50%, many of the solutions suggested were non-tech. The irony of having tech trainers at a TechCamp referring to non-technical solutions is obvious. However it reiterates a point that Ushahidi knows all too well, tech is a tool. It can increase efficiency, productivity, reach, ease of scaling and be cost-effective, however only when the tech applied addresses the actual problem faced.
Thanks go to the United States State Department and US Embassy, who in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden in Maputo, organised this event. We would also like to thank the inspiring participants from the growing tech scene in Mozambique.
About the authorMathias Antonsson is Innovation Programme Manager at Ushahidi
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