A fast paced question and answer session with Chinedu Okonkwo, software engineer.
I work on the API (Application Programing Interface) of Esoko. The back end of the application. I mostly code in PHP & PL/SQL.
What led you to software development?
First and foremost, I’ve always had an interest in creating things–programming and computing let you make things happen in real time and you can see them happen right in front of you. I can bring things to life this way. It also feeds a hero’s complex….I’m hoping that what I make can solve some of the problems I see around me.
Does it matter if software is made in Africa or in the West? What’s the difference?
I believe that there are cultural dynamics between Africa and the West that are largely different. One example of this is that African culture is more passive, so your software has to assume that and be the active part for it to be effective. Esoko fits into this with with price alerts and bulk SMS – ‘push’ elements are super important. Reaching out to a user instead of a user reaching into the system.
We as Africans tend to go our of our ways sometimes to just copy the West, and it’s much more interesting to use the same coding languages as the West but built things here, according to local needs.
What’s the biggest misconception about African software development?
That Africa doesn’t have the capacity to build it’s own software. But that’s crap.
A lot of software developers in Ghana are freelance. What are the benefits of working at a big company?
Working at a big company puts me in the position to prove the above misconception wrong. It takes a team to build world class software to solve a worldwide problems–I can’t do it alone.
It also gets you out of the regular domain of IT, which is mostly corporate software & IT support, and gets you into web and public based platforms that have a much bigger reach.
You took a recent trip to Kumasi (in the center of Ghana) and talked to some Esoko users. What were the best and worst things about that trip?
The most shocking was definitely that a lot of businesses have no idea about information technology. It’s a slow process. But the cool part is that we have a platform to solve a lot of their problems.
Connect, argue or commiserate with Chinedu on Twitter @codmajik