Podcast of the unscripted radio interview on Tshwane FM about the upcoming RHOK at Tech4Africa.

SoundCloud embed:
[soundcloud url=”″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Tech4Africa challenges established development teams

This year Tech4Africa is running a Hackathon on the two days prior to the main event. The Hackathon is aimed at imparting workplace skills around collaboration, and instilling the notion that a simple utility value product can be shipped in two days when a team pulls together.

And he’s the rub: Tech4Africa is challenging all tech teams from established companies to send at least one person to the Hackathon, to share their skills, even if for a few hours.

The founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, says: “Our contention is that the Europeans and Americans are going to figure out pretty quickly that the African market is going to be big enough to target once the $50 smartphone reaches ubiquity, and indeed some of them already have, but they’re not local and they don’t understand the local market, so there is a gap. That said, we also think there is a lack of skill around technical execution in the African market. So whilst the Hackathon doesn’t solve it, it will give the participants the confidence to build and release something, so we start the cycle sooner.”

So whilst the Hackathon isn’t aimed at experienced developers, there is definitely a need for skills to be shared in much the same way this is done all over the world. You just have to think of the PayPal & Skype mafia to understand how important it is for anyone to gain industry knowledge from people who have already done it.

Unlike most Hackathons the format will be different and the attendees will all work on the same project, but within their different skill sets and abilities, so there are plenty of opportunities for experienced developers to pass on their skills for the next generation of hackers.

To support this, Microsoft are sponsoring Azure cloud instances which will give the developers the ability to push their code live, as well as FREE online training. Tech4Africa will be running Google Hangouts beforehand to help the developers get up to speed.

Says Knight: “It’s pretty simple: as an organisation we’re not about ivory towers and fishbowls, we’re about merit, earning success, and acknowleding the realities of the market we live in, so we’re going to welcome anyone who has something to learn, and everyone who wants to share how they’ve learnt. I built my career on that principle, and so we’re hoping that the established tech teams can see the value in it too.”

Anyone interested in participating need only register for FREE on the Tech4Africa site.

The Hackathon website can be found at, the main website at: and anyone can register at Tickets are FREE.

Tech4Africa launches the Random Hack of Kindness, focusses on workplace skills

This year Tech4Africa is running a Hackathon on the two days prior to the main event. This is an interesting development since they ran two Hackathons two years ago, and then stopped doing them altogether, until now.

When quizzed about this the founder of Tech4Africa, Gareth Knight, said: “The first two Hackathons we ran were great days and I think the attendees got a lot out of it, but we felt afterwards that they didn’t live up to our expectations. And then looking at the ecosystem, we felt that there were already enough events doing that, so why try compete on that basis?”

Which is fair enough… but then Knight says “… And then one event I asked the audience how many of them were using some sort of source control, or CI for deployments, or who worked in teams bigger than 2, and the numbers were shocking poor – clearly there is a lot going on in the ecosystem, but we started questioning whether it was actually relevant. So this year we’ve decided to do something a little different, with the focus on a utility product for the African market, and the core skills taught being code collaboration and shipping product. When you unpack this, it’s basically our mantra of: Want to build big tech product for Africa? Focus on product with daily value for user. Mobile first. Make it easy to share. Make sure cash-flow has you in it.

So, unlike most Hackathons, the format will be different: the attendees will all work on the same project, but within their different skill sets and abilities, and everyone will share the same codebase. The objective will be to release a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) onto Github in 2 days, for anyone to take a look at, and to make sure that everyone attending has the skills to collaborate on software projects of 2 or 20. After that, if the MVP is good enough it will be demo’d at the main Tech4Africa event and to the Johannesburg City Council.

To support this, Microsoft are sponsoring Azure cloud instances which will give the developers the ability to push their code live, as well as FREE online training. Tech4Africa will be running Google Hangouts beforehand to help the developers get up to speed.

Says Knight: “It’s hard to overstate how far behind we are in Africa in some respects, and we think that focussing on developing skills around collaboration and releasing products is the most productive thing we can do right now to help grow innovation in Africa. We’re excited by this approach, and so far the number of signups is validating this. It’s going to be awesome!”.

The Hackathon website can be found at, the main website at: and anyone can register at Tickets are FREE.

You can also watch this video to understand more:

Introducing the Random Hack of Kindness (RHoK)


We think that Hackathons in Africa are enjoying mixed results:
There are opportunities which are being missed by focusing on the wrong problems.
There are lack of skills around Shipping Product.
There are also skills gaps around determining the business case of projects / problems etc.

There are of course exceptions to this, thankfully (!), but by and large we’re thinking that by focusing on workplace relevant skills, and problems which can product viable businesses, a Hackathon could have more long term value to the people who participate.

We don’t think that it’s our place to take sides on specific Technologies, and we don’t really want to replicate what other people are already doing.

Which is why the Tech4Africa Hackathons moving forward will do 4 things only:

  1. Focus on one utility problem which is local & relevant
  2. Include collaboration technology and business case skills transfer for everyone
  3. Focus on User Experience – this is the key driver for adoption and is largely ignored
  4. Result in Shipping an MVP Proof of Concept


Maslow's Heirarchy of Needs
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Needs
Internet Heirarchy
Internet Heirarchy

We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what the opportunities are in Africa right now, and what’s clear is that it’s not going to play out the same way it has in the “developed” world until now.  The reason is that when you look at the building blocks of the internet, there are clear un-met challenges which make those opportunities both different and harder.

When you dissect the landscape using Maslow as your reference point, and then you overlay that with the mobile market data, we think that the major differentiation will be:

  1. most everything is going to happen on a mobile device rather than on a desktop PC;
  2. whilst the rest of the “developed” world is focusing on top of the pyramid problems around self-actualisation, creativity, problem solving, authenticity and spontaneity (as memes for products), the African market still has pretty much all the layers of the pyramid left as opportunities, with the bottom of the pyramid still largely untapped.

When you dissect the opportunities at the bottom of the pyramid, you’ll find that they are primarily “utility” problems which exist in the lives of people everywhere, every day, in all markets.

For example: most diagrams will show “internet” or “wifi” as the base of the pyramid, and as such is probably the biggest opportunity (which is why the Telcos are so dominant in people’s lives).

Maslow in the Internet Age.
Maslow in the Internet Age.

So this is what has led to our mantra of:

Want to build big tech product for Africa?

  1. Focus on product with daily value for user. This is the utility & viability part.
  2. Mobile first. This is the market demographic & adoption part.
  3. Make it easy to share. This is the common sense part.
  4. Make sure cash-flow has you in it. This is the “Don’t waste your time” part.

So, when you unpack this, we see examples (these are simple ones) coming out of:

  • Education: I want to add to or complete my education
  • Transport: I want to be somewhere on time / I need to inform my employer / I need a lift
  • Utilities: I want water / gas / electricity / housing
  • Personal finance: I want to make a payment / I want to send money to my family who live far away
  • Employment: I want to work to earn an income / I have jobs to offer
  • Information: I want to know what is going on around me
  • Family: Where are my family? Are they safe?

When applied to communities and devices (Internet of Things), some examples could be around:

  • Medical devices which are designed for low-resource hospitals
  • Infant phototherapy / General health issues
  • Smoke alerts
  • Air quality
  • Using 3G to connect communities and make them aware (using something like BRCK –
  • Tablet devices pre-configured for education and learning
  • Community security via drones
  • Smart metering applications (eg: energy usage)
  • Community / family communication (single button modes, not Group chat)

So we’re not going to be encouraging an “Uber / Facebook / LinkedIn / Buzzfeed / Slack etc for Africa” – what’s the point?


Maslow's Heirarchy of Software Development
Maslow’s Heirarchy of Software Development

So, instead of following the usual Hackathon experience you can find anywhere, our approach moving forward will be different:

  1. We’re going to give clear direction on a product that could become a business.
  2. The RHOK will focus on problems which occur in everyday life (this is where the business value is).
  3. It will solve something which will mean people will talk about it (because it has given them value).
  4. There will be a reasonable vision of adding transactions for cash flow, although this won’t be the focus for the RHOK itself.
  5. Everyone will work together as a team.
  6. The development focus will be on executing for mobile devices.
  7. We WILL ship an MVP product in 2 days.
  8. All skills learnt over the two days will transfer to the workplace.

And instead of focussing on the usual set of development skills (or taking sides on what stack to focus on), we’re going to focus on skills which enable collaboration in teams and shipping code and realising something beyond the Hackathon:

  • GIT (source control)
  • Continuous Integration (CI – easy stress free deployments)
  • App architecture (essential for teamwork)
  • App business case (just, essential)

We’ve engaged with Microsoft who have the vision to believe in what we’re doing, and they are going to help with:

  • Cloud servers on  Azure – The machines will be small but adequate, and limited to the Hackathons.
  • Cloud training help, eg: how to build machines running Linux/Win/MySQL,IoT, etc on Azure.
  • Free online training via Microsoft Virtual Academy.


For anyone attending, this is roughly what to expect:

  • We will announce the problem / focus area of the Hackathon
  • This will more than likely be a single page, Minimum Viable Product (MVP) approach
  • Explain what viable use & business cases mean
  • Group everyone into teams of logical skill sets
  • Go through application architecture & needs
  • Assign responsibilities
  • Push first code to Github
  • Setup servers to push & pull code
  • Review progress every 3 to 4 hours
  • Setup a booth to record teamwork & results for everyone to see

And the rewards will be:

  1. At the RHoK:
    1. Learn new skills
    2. Learn how to ship  a product in 2 days
    3. Meet new people
  2. Present at Tech4Africa Day 2
  3. From Microsoft:
    1. BizSpark / Azure offers
    2. Demo of Azure Cloud setup for learning
    3. Small Azure instances to attendees who participate in the RHOK.
    4. Free training vouchers for their Virtual Training Academy


We’re really excited by what this will produce, and we’re looking forward to rolling this out across all of the cities we go to.  See you there!

JoziHackathon Hashtags

Hey everyone,

We’re going to be starting with the following hashtags for todays Hackathon at JoziHub:
JoziEducation, JoziSchools, JoziPower, JoziCorruption, JoziSection27, JoziCops, JoziRoads, JoziCrisis, JoziEvents, JoziFun, Jozi, Johannesburg, JHB, Gauteng, Tech4Africa, JoziHack, T4A, JoziHub, JoziEducation, JoziSchools, JoziPower, JoziCorruption, JoziSection27, JoziCops, JoziRoads, JoziCrisis, JoziEvents, JoziFun.

Pls use these hashtags if you can, so that we can get *more* data around Jozi 😉
We’ll be posting tag clouds during the day, and if you would like us to track more hashtags, pls just comment below.


A quick update on the #JoziHackathon tomorrow

Hi All,

A quick update on the schedule for tomorrow, looking forward to a great day!

The following is the rough schedule we’ll follow during the day:
We’ll start at 10:00am.

We’ll make sure everyone get’s an intro, and knows where to find coffee, red bull, food and wifi etc.

We’ll then ask questions to find out what:
everyone can do / is capable of
what everyone wants to get out of the day
what people are passionate about.

After that, we’ll group everyone into logical groups, with groups max 5 in size.
We’ll then ask the teams to work out who is doing what using the massive JoziHub whiteboard!

At around lunchtime we’ll do a quick standup session to see what everyone is intending to work on.

After that, we’ll focus on getting the most out of the time and people we have left, with:
lightning talks from speakers and mentors; no one will be forced to attend / take part.
demo’s from various people on different technologies.
There will be the mandatory talk on GitHub!

At about 4pm, we’ll stop everything to do something fun. This is a surprise!

After that, we’ll carry on coding, and aim to code through the night and into the morning, taking turns to sleep and get features / functions / classes / API’s etc built.

First thing Saturday morning, we’ll take a look at what everyone has done.
Of course, some things will break, so there will be time to work on fixes.

After that, we’ll get all groups to put their work onto the whiteboard with the following:
Name; Description or Problem / Solution; Technology used; People involved
And then we’ll take photos!

At around lunchtime we’ll break for presentations, where we get to look at what has been done and how.
Ideally, we’re looking at 3 to 6 minute presentations each, and some questions from everyone else.
After that, we’ll open source whatever the coders want to open source, write up group progress, blog the photos and screenshots and then go to the pub!

Looking forward to it!

Team Tech4Africa.

Quick update on the Hackathons

A quick update on the Hackathons.
Both Hackathons are all nighters – so be prepped for 24Hrs of Hacking. You can however join at any time.
Cape Town is tomorrow (16th August) at the Bandwidth Barn.
Jozi is next Friday (23rd August) at JoziHub.

Confirmed speakers (Cape Town and Jozi):

#DiData will have speakers on hand to talk through getting setup in the Cloud. They will also be giving away FREE vouchers for anyone attending.

Patrick Turley from #Thoughtworks will be talking about Agility and the hard graft of getting products to market.

Ben Adlard, Product Manager for #Vumi at #Praekelt, will be at the hackathon to take questions and give away free accounts for Vumi. The entire core dev team will also be available on IRC during the hackathon to assist any developers with questions. Vumi is the product Wikipedia has selected to deliver content over USSD and SMS.

Gareth Knight, founder of #Wedo and #Tech4Africa, will be giving a talk on “Talk is cheap. Execution is everything. Product management in the ADD world of today.”. He will also be on hand to answer product dev / execution questions, and is easily bribed with good coffee and pizza.

We’re working on more speakers, which we’ll announce over Twitter and on this blog. Stay tuned, and stay classy.