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On Politics and Programmers Across a Continent

By Wayan Vota on August 30, 2011

This morning, I republished the post The 3 types of developers you will find in Africa by Richard Ngamita. He compared the software developer community to three controversial African leaders, Charles Taylor, Robert Mugabe, and Idi Amin, using satire to point out the different styles of programmers and their stereotypical behaviors.

When I first read the post, I though it daring to use such leaders to categorize the technology community, but then I started reading the comments – now 60+ and counting – and I found that every single commenter saw humor in the post and many voluntarily identified with one of the figures.

This made me question myself: Why did I find this post so “daring” yet the commenters not? Was it because as an American, I see these leaders through the context of the ex-colonials who lost so much under their rule? Were the original commenters somehow lacking in their knowledge of history? Or is there an inside joke, a macabre humor that only an African could get after living with such leaders?

So, going with the earlier commentary as a guide, I republished the post (with Richard’s permission) believing that the majority of ICTworks readers would have the same reaction as those that read the original post. Such is not the case.

Besides the comments below, I’ve received several private emails disagreeing with the use of these three Africans to describe the ICT field. Also, those that still live under one of the leaders have pointed out that such leaders don’t take kindly to unauthorized, much less possibly unflattering descriptions or associations.

So I’ve removed the post. If you would like to read it and the original commentary, you can find it here: The 3 types of developers you will find in Africa.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks and is the Digital Health Director at IntraHealth International. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of IntraHealth International or other ICTWorks sponsors.
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6 Comments to “On Politics and Programmers Across a Continent”

  1. Doug Ragan says:

    hi. though i get where your going with this article, I find the comparisons to three brutal dictators, and subsequent references to raping and pillaging to be a bit over the top. You lose your message by the way you have framed this.

  2. Wayan Vota says:

    Doug, if you look at the original post, which now has 60+ comments, not a single African had the same reaction as you did.

  3. Vusi Vuma says:

    I am sorry, found your article, although well meant very patronising. Its as if, you started with the dictators and then overlayed your story. Very forced IMHO. I am not one to gloss over Africa’s clear weaknesses, but the negativity is unfortunate. Where is the Paul Kagame, who, although flawed, is creative with little resources. And where is the Thabo Mbeki or the Ghanaians. Africans increasingly have fuild identities and refuse to be put in boxes, I suspect the same could be said of the developers you write about. Pity, because its an otherwise interesting topic

  4. Finally i get to send my reply. I just don’t understand where some one could get offended. 68+ comments and non is negative .. which part of the world are some of these readers .

    Those who felt there was someting wrong about tyrants are not developers/techies in Africa and are not trying to understand why people act in a certain way. I think they need to get on ground and do some research .No offence to any of the leaders – i only felt they had some common characteristics to the developer verticals i came across during my two year travels .

    Unfortunately we live in a global village but our cultures/backgrounds are not yet part of the village .

  5. Dumi says:

    This soils a normally, well-meaning and rich-content blog. I follow most of your topics which usually have a developmental tone and are very informative, though this article becomes a significant diversion.

    Even though we do not support these dictators as Africans, it comes across as more of a mockery or a subject of laughter when these are real life issues where people die,are suppressed and abused. If they were dead bad leaders in history, maybe. However, I still feel the analogy is misplaced here and would not be good for future ICT4D dialogue with other leaders.

  6. Dumi says:

    It could also be an example of just how the whole ICT4D dialogue has to be more than just solutions….the same challenges experienced by most NGOs/NPOs are faced in this arena.

    There has to be an understanding and respect of cultural views, norms and approaches to topics. In international organisations like the UN, it is of essence that local culture and sensitivities are taught to expatriate employees. This is why even working with people at grassroots(a topic covered by you) is critical for the success of many humanitarian programmes. A local covers alot of sensitivities which you would otherwise be unaware of. Shielding you from “mistakes” that are trivial from a developed world and yet very sensitive in a developing country. What in one nationality can be humorous and amusing can be to another very sensitive or offending.

    Even an African from Malawi working in Ghana has to adjust him/herself to the norms and sensitivities of that country. This is a common thing in many foreign humanitarian missions.