Code for Ethiopia   11 comments

I came  across a project initiative in the United States called code for america. The leaders of technology companies had a video where they ask the programmers to code for a change and it is a kind of social service. I thought about the issue for some time and it came to my mind what we can do for Ethiopia. Information technology is like death, they are the two things that we, people from the third world countries, could be equal to those from the developed world. We get the latest software and equipment not too late than the rest of the world. If you take it this way, my idea makes sense, I guess. So, when the Americans code to change the way of living in the US from better to best, why not we change the way of living from worst to bad at least? Don’t you think that is possible? I think it is possible. This is all about coding for changing the life style of the people.

Consider the way we move in addis, the way we advertise new movies, the way we go to cinema, the way we choose schools for our kids (or brothers/ sisters) and so on. Do you think there is a place we can get in? Is there a way to make things better in this ways? I see lots of things that can be developed. The simplest scenario is the bus arrival and departure time. To my knowledge, there is no public way of getting an information about a bus, say Number 58. What areas it cross, what time it arrives at its starting point and so on. This is not actually a simple thing to come up with a working source of information. It requires the involvement of the source of information, the City bus, the public in general and developers.

Another simple scenario, I want to eat my lunch somewhere I have never been. I could only drive around and see the restaurant from outside and check what they have. What if we had a central repository of restaurants and their menu, what they have for a specific day, what specialties they have, so that I can go online and check. In this way, I believe countries close to us are ahead of us. Eat-out Kenya is one of the leading restaurant location tracker and their menu for the day.

I usually don’t get a place to go after work. Have you ever been to that situation? I guess there are many people around addis who share this. What if we had a way of getting schedule of what’s out there for that day? I got a site and see what’s hot today and see if it is of interest to me. The data comes from different entertainment entities and I get the chance to see it. How about schools? I expect to have a way of locating a school and see what they have, get what people say about the school or college, hospitals and clinics, embassies and their location, how to go their location and so on.

Let me put a typical Saturday of Ato X. He wake up in the morning and wanted to go out shopping. He take a taxi or a bus and goes to merkato. Looks at the items and buys what ever is in his mind. Then he comes back home. Prepare lunch and eat or may be eats somewhere out. Then he has a plan of going to a hospital he know by name to ask a friend. The last thing on his schedule is going out with friends and having fun. Imagine the places that we could have made his life more enjoyable. I know there are lots of shopping guide sites which lack content; but what if they are full of information that is current. He could just look at the items and the best deal in town and go to that place.

If we had a directory of hospitals and their locations on a map, he could have gone straight to the hospital without unnecessary calls to ask the place. On the last schedule, what if he just goes online and see that there is a salsa show somewhere then meet people of his interest. Please forgive me if I am too ambitious, I see it that way. We need to build an information repository where the community is updating it every now and then. I hope changing the way we live changes the way we think which in turn changes the way we work. I hope that affects the growth in a positive way and one day enhance the life’s of those people who are in the rural areas.

In general, there are lots of things that need to be exposed to public for easy access. That is all about information availability. What if we build the information and also the application? If I get enough allies I will start it as an open source project. Anyone can be part of the project, either by coding or collecting data or giving comments. Let’s code for Ethiopia and see the changes.


Posted June 21, 2011 by Behailu S. in Open Data

11 responses to “Code for Ethiopia

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  1. Bille, this is a bright initiative that needs to be explored and is sure to make a huge difference on the way we do day-to-day activities, fun, and on the way we live in general. Like you said, it may seem a bit ambitious, but hey, every initiative of this magnitude has always been that way and it does keep you moving forward and eventually helps to make it happen. We all hope to see a baby step one at a time to lay a framework for this.

  2. well bille i believe all what u said is not too ambitious….I remember i used to think a lot regarding most of the issues u raised on the blog. I was just so short hand having no sound knowledge of information technology. It would had been great if u and i were talking more apart from those stupid campus chitchats. But anywho…i believe most of u have the skill to compete with any geeks from any part of the world. I am so convinced with that every long time ago.

    The problem lies here. I am not trying to talk abt politics….very sick and tired of it. I mean think about it. U have all the knowledge and the actual work in hand, say in ur local machine. Unless someone is willing to reflect your works to the rest of us it will be a big loss. Waste of time, energy, money and knowledge. Let me give u a simple example….say the Mr. x you mentioned above was using a service that was developed by you people. On his next visit to a hospital he was trying to use your usual service…guess what that new hospital is not in your database……very simple mistake by you guys. I dont know why but most ethiopian web sites once they are built sounds like they will stay like that forever……….take that as ur mistake…………..the same guy again goes to an internet cafe to use your service……as far as i know unless those of you who work on NGOs or UN or AU or ECA offices it is very difficult to rely on the country’s internet speed. I believe most huge information repository sites need a fast internet access to stay connected………..lastly mr x was in arat killo while he was in need of the service……..he stopped by just to find out his usual place for internet access was “YEMEBRAT TEREGNA FEREKA MINAMIN”………..

    My point: i know it is just a matter of time for a change in advancement but no matter how hard you try there are so many things that will try to hide ur creativity in my country.
    You might even be surprised when someone took over ur own creativity. We have witnessed that hundred times………………long live to my country and long live to my all ethio ppl……….. Please Please Please DO NOT TWIST MY WORDS TO POLITICS……….

  3. there was this initiative called enearmaed big national project initiated by one of respected professionals in the country, it was ambitious and there was efforts to make it happen but it just dead without any result, so my point is let us work on the pragmatic approach to make this idea happen, in general keep it up buddy 🙂

  4. Dear Bille,

    This is one genius approach to make things better in Addis. Bille, I salut you to stand up to tackle these chronic problems that we face everyday in Addis. As you clearly describe them what you are trying to tackle are major challenges. And as Dereso suggested this mission of yours requires pragmatism. I, unlike Amiro, would say the project is bold and ambitious considering the same problems Amiro reflected upon. But Are they are DOABLE? YES, they are doable specially by people like you – Behailu. I do believe you will achieve these goals. The roads ahead might be long and difficult (in terms of finding data from the government eg. for the city bus schedules); but your goals and objectives are BIG enough to attack head-ons these potential obstacles along the way.

    BTW, I’m expecting your iphone and android apps soon on these projects…. that is the way forward (my 2cents)

    Having said that, I wish you all the very best. And if there are things that we can help, please keep us posted on this blog and other social medias.


  5. Bille,

    I believe the first step to solve a problem is to accept and observe that there is. From your description, I think the problem is not the lack of good professionals who can code to address these tasks. I believe the problem is far more serious than what you have described. You need enough resources and infrastructures to deploy what you have cited. Take the simple problem which is tracking bus times and making it accessible. The first thing is you need a GPS system to be planted on every buses out there and you need a consistent signal supply. Furthermore, you need a server which collects all the information and updates without delay.Moreover, with the traffic like in Addis, it becomes unpredictable what will happen at what time. Besides, how many bus users in Addis has access to the internet? The price for the internet connection becomes much more than the bus fare. To conclude, it is difficult to persuade people to invest on internet to address more customers. I wish there is a way to address the problems you have cited and I wish I can be part of it, but honestly I am afraid it needs more time.

  6. In my few years of experience as a developer, I have seen the data center’s of lots of Ministry offices and Agencies. I have also had a talk with friends who have seen the national data center. It is amazing, it could definitely hold the information needed for these applications. All that it requires is the application that pulls the data and present it in a meaningful manner. I have also seen the strategy of the Ethiopian IT in the coming few years. Believe me, an application without the data has no value. Let me say few things, the first generation IT company, that is IBM, used to say ‘the money is in the hardware not in the software’. The second generation, Microsoft, said ‘Actually the money is not in the hard ware but in the software’. These companies had really the money in what they claim is the money for. The third generation, Google, said ‘The money is not in the software, it is in the sorting of the data’ and got the money in its time. The fourth generation, Twitter,YouTube and Facebook, said ‘The money is actually in the data’, and guess what, every photo or movie you upload you are building money for them. So the more digital data we have about our country we are building it’s capital. All it takes is an open mind and stretched hands.

  7. Bille,

    What IBM, Microsoft, Google , Youtube , Twitter and Facebook has said is in its chronological order, meaning as time progresses there is a shift in technology, skills and interests. What IBM said in the first generation cannot be true right now since hardware is cheaper and the same goes for others. Anyways, let’s forget the argument and concentrate on the main issue. If you think that there is no problem on resources , then I can contribute something by working with you since I believe I have enough knowledge on Data Analysis, Sorting,visualization and Pattern Recognition. Similar to your goal, my aim is to see a developed nation of Ethiopia so let me be part of it.

    • Awesome! Thank you Mesfin for volunteering to be part of it. I hope there will be others coming and joining us to make a change. I am trying to do the basic things needed in the mean time. Everybody is welcomed to be part of it.

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