Tech

My Apology Letter to @MTNCameroon; #BringBackMyInternet

Dear Y’ello Tiger,

An Apology for Being a Horrible Customer ( or Lover?)

This is the first time I have taken my pen (keyboard) to write to you. How are you? I was scared you had a chronic case of jaundice because you have always looked so …you know…Y’ello.
I understood what the obsession with the color all meant when I read on this weird thing called ‘branding’.

I know. I am as surprised as you are reading this. Yes. The last time we spoke, someone had told me I would be adding a ‘6’ in front of all my contact phone numbers. It took me a while to understand. Truth be told, I still don’t. But, given that you cover a huge portion of the Cradle of Life, you must definitely know what you are doing.

How are the kids? I hear you incubate now. I saw a host of young people playing with their phones a while ago. Thousands of them. Literally. Something about ‪#‎MTNChallenge‬ or whatever. That you had said you would fund their ideas. I love how you prod brains and select viable biz ideas to pursue.
Talk about business acumen. ‪

#‎UBeBoss‬.

I was just wandering eh…what do you do with the other ideas ? The other not-so-viable ones that DON’T get funded? Do you fund them secretly or something? Because I bet Cameroonian minds have gems when it comes to being creative. Especially with this thing called ‘3G’. A cousin came and made noise about it. Said she was the Next Tel or something. You know how paranoid I am sometimes.

I notice the wave of feminism had taken over the family. That is great. I hope KT is safe and sound. Given his ability to communicate (or not?) using Google Hangouts, I suppose he is okay. Extend my +regards.
I saw this #21days thing. Hum. Talk about ‪#‎CSR‬! You know your thing oh! So, you build homes in 21 days? Wow. How I wish you could apply that speed to your customer service.

Wait. I take that back. Don’t. Make it 21 SECONDS not DAYS.

Now, let me not waste your credit. That lady is always waiting for the reason why I call to tell me “Votre credit est insuffisant…” See eh. I don’t know whether you trained her in 21days too but she’s damn good.

I tried BRIGHT FUTURE.
So, er, here is the thing. I know we have had problems in the past. You were not very happy when I hooked up with MOBILIS 2.0 . You panicked and started sending messages, on the hour:

Do you want to eat? TEXT CHOPON to 7222 and get daily recommendations,
DO you want to text a friend and have no credit? TEXT I BEG YAH to 75667.

I get that. You were upset.

Also, there were times when you would just sit and send me credit. I was so glad! I would call everyone. Just like that! That was amazing…in the beginning.
What I did not realize was this: you had plans to take it all back!
Why did you do this? When we started dating, I did not say our relationship was exclusive. You need to be able to let go. I lost my phone. I had to change my sim card. You need to understand.
You’re right though. The problem is me. Not you. Because of that, I understood and forgave you.

I even decided to buy your WIMAX key. I thought it could serve as a truce. Chai. That key was sweet oh. White…sleek…cute…tempting the money out of my wallet. FCFA20000 I paid.
Guess what? THE VERY NEXT DAY YOU SLASHED THE PRICE BY HALF!
My love, why? WHY? Why would you do that to me?

That’s okay. I know relationships have ups and downs. I forgive you still. After all, your minions who answer the phone are very courteous and polite. I even have crush on one of the ladies.
I lied. I have crush on all of them.
So, like I said, I bought the key and you punished me for it. Then I forgave you. I then decided to make it up. I started purchasing airtime and surfing. Sometimes it would fail. Sometimes it would be awesome. My download speed never got to 1MB/S but, like I said, all relationships go through troubles. I still love you my yellow tiger.Four days ago , something else happened. I had switched to the 12am-6am tariff because of brokenness and lack of money.

A Net Detour
Let me pause a little and admit this: you mean a lot to me and many Cameroonians.
We can now use Whatsapp WITHOUT THE INTERNET!
I mean, come on, was it not thanks to you that I could send an sms with: ? Just that. A single question mark.
Before you graced us with ‪#‎MTNUnlimitext‬ , an SMS cost 50frs!
Can you imagine? TWO PUFFPUFFS! (Or ten if you prefer quantity to quality). But, tell me eh…is that thing really unlimited? Because, I don’t think so oh. I could be an idiot here and say I have proof. But who am I kidding? Who owns the servers?
I just think the chatteur of Molyko deserves to know that if he sends the same 150 character message to 300 potential chicks, he might not be able to reply.

Just shaying.

Anyway, back to the reason why we are here: four days ago, I precharged my mobile. FCFA3000. I had borrowed from you and, ‪#‎AlreadyWeKnow‬, you don’t joke with your debtors. You left me FCFA2764.
Then, I subscribed to ‪#‎MTN‬(Almost)Unlimitxt. Fab sang, na e you take am.
I then went home and waited for the darkest hour.
I plugged my sleek 20 nkolo WiMAX key. 27 DB. Not bad. I opened the login page.( Kudos to your designers eh. The simplicity is elegant). I logged in and renewed my MTN NITE successfully.
Then all network hell was let lose.

1. My key disconnected. Alone. ‪#‎NaWitch‬?
2. The transaction went through. I checked on my phone and I have 264 frs left.
3. I have not been able to connect. Green light doesn’t change to yellow blinking one.
4. Oh, did I mention the validity of the bundle is 7 days from activation?

So, my love, I want to beg for forgiveness. Maybe you heard I went on a date with Next tel‬. You have ears( literally) everywhere. I apologize.

Thine 3G shant be doubted, your royal networkness.

Please eh, reconnect my key. I want to browse. I have to stalk research.What do you want from me? How can we make this right? I know you’re Everywhere I go, so, let’s talk soon and sort this out. Or do I prepare the divorce papers?

Sincerely,
Your distraught lover (customer)
674231654.
P.S: Sometimes messages don’t go through. That should not surprise you anyway.. And I have not been able to connect to the internet in a while. #AlreadyWeKnow. So, I may be slow to respond. Forgive me my tiger.
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Interview with Duplex;One of the #GSoC 2015 Winners and 3rd Generation Techies

“My name is Duplex…like the house, but my friends call me Tony”.

If I have ever been grateful for being able to speak two languages, I was doubly so when I discovered that one the 11 current #GSoC (Google Summer of Code) winners for 2015 was French speaking.

Duplex is a final year Computer Engineering Student at the Faculty of Engineering in the University of Buea.

“What do you do?”

I love this question. It is my default techie conversation starter. Keep in mind the following:

  1. Duplex had difficulties talking English.
  2. Duplex will graduate this December.
  3. He has  a history of prizes from National and International competitions in an ENGLISH governed environment.

I had in my presence Exhibit A of the fruit of resolve, determination and obstinate hard work.

“I have been working for GSoC since last year. For one full year.”

Otto corroborates. He wanted to win. He had to win.

“Do you play video games?” I had to know! Could this be an FPS sparring partner??

“No. I don’t.” he said, “I did not grow up in an environment that gave me access to video games at a younger age”.

You can guess my natural retort.

“So, how did you get into computers??” I hope he saw how shocked I was.

Duplex got into the computer through the window. Sort of.

L-R: Duplex, Nyah Check at ACTIVspaces November 2014

After his Technical Baccalaureate studies, he later pursued and earned a civil engineering diploma. His passion at the time (and his natural aptitude) was that of drawing. From what he later told me, even though he no longer manipulates the engineering software that much, he still provides consultancy for his friends and others at all levels of the graphic conceptualization phase.

The then civil engineer landed a job shortly before 2010. The pay was comfortable but the security of his position was unclear.  During this period, Duplex got to play with the computer and found in it a trustworthy creation partner.

“ La programmation c’était ma bête noire.” He would later confess about his first year in UB. Mais maintenant… j’adore

He then heard through a friend that the University of Buea had just opened the School of Technology. Upon coming to Buea, he realized he had just two choices: Computer engineering and Electrical engineering.

“ Je me suis dit…bon…comme j’ai au moins une idée sur les ordinateurs, pourquoi pas l’informatique?

He applied. Halfheartedly. And when in September 2010 a friend called to inform him his name was on ‘the list’, he had to make a choice- keep working as a civil engineer or further his education in uncharted lands?

“ Le boulot n’étais pas si sûr…je me suis demandé et si je laisse passer une chance d’apprendre comme celle si? je pourrais regreter plutard .»

Duplex came to Buea, to study in an English speaking institution,  live in an English speaking environment for a degree programme in a field he had barely mingled with.

If there is ever a time to play “Eye of The Tiger”, now is the time.

And survive he would.

He barely made it during the first semester though. He validate just four of the courses and could not differentiate code from Chinese. He fell, rose, fell and rose again. At the end of that first year, he decided to reapply. That was the last time he fell.

“J’adore programmer maintenant. En plus que j’avais un nouveau prof qui m’a beaucoup motivé”.

From what I gathered, Cameroon is in the first place with most winners of the GSoC for 2015. Duplex told me the brilliant (and intimidatingly short) Daisy Nkewteyim is among the winners this year. Which means she won…AGAIN!” Kudos!

Covert the stipend…

Isaac Kamga (Google Developer Group Manager for the SW) and Nyah Check ( former Google Student Ambassador and current Google Star Ambassador) are doing an exceptional job in pushing the programmers of the Buea tech scene.

Here is how I classify the generations of entrepreneurs in Buea :(Note: This is a SELF BUILT Classification)

The Founders: Made it on their own- out of the country and came back to invest and promote tech e.g. Rebecca Enonchong

The 1st Generation: Made in on their own (or made great strides forward), within the country, usually without external funding and without incubating. Some with. But worked on rough and uncharted territory with little or no mentorship. Learned the hard way e.g Mambe Churchill, Nara Laurence, Fritz Ekwoge, Fua Tse, Otto Isong etc.

The 2nd Generation: May or may not have a working product or service. Benefited from some sort of funding or joined the 1st generation to work on a product, or built the community in one way or the other. This is where I would place myself together with Isaac Kamga, Nyah Check, Clifford Ako, Otto Paul etc.

When the first wave of the 3rd Generation hits the streets…man would we be in for amazing stuff! I think Duplex falls here. Together with the smart, beautiful ladies of the GDG Buea scene (especially Daisy Nkweteyim!). I have already seen a great number of products underway. Kamerrecipe is one by the Ngong Sisters- Ivorita and Ivoline.

Daisy at the #WomenInTech Event organised by GDG Buea and ACTIVspaces on March 7 to commemorate the International Day of the Woman

Duplex cannot hold his excitement much longer:

“I don’t think neither Kamga nor Check realize the amazing work they are doing!

L-R Back: Nyah Check, Isaac Kamga and Krys Nuvagda L-R Front: Mpara Faith and Daisy Nkewteyim

Let me say this just once: 3.6 Million FCFA.

That is the amount Duplex and the other  GSoC winners would EACH earn from their summer of hard work.

“When you work alone in your room…sometimes with no money to pay to move to even get to checkpoint…sometimes you get discouraged.  Sometimes you need to be motivated somehow”.

Here is a quote from Otto Isong, founder at Pursarpay and proponent of the ‘Free money transfer movement”;

“You can’t become a giant by standing on the shoulders of a giant”.

According to Isong ( I am proud to call him my very coveted mentor), anyone who works with Google essentially creates FOR Google. He holds that:

African entrepreneurs need to build from the ground up and not rely on external funds/aid”.

Duplex disagrees.

“The financial motivation pushes you to work harder and to code better. Without it, some of us would have just gotten discouraged.”

The quiet young man now waltzes  his passion for coding freely. Is it the liquor or the sparks of intellectual conversation?

Who cares?

“So, what’s next? Do you have a product in mind?” I sip my coke and wait.

Of course, he has a product in mind. Of course he won’t tell me what it is. But, dear reader, we both know I will find out anyway.

Duplex with one of his Prizes

 

Duplex hopes to build his own company one day. He believes he would need funds in order ‘to ensure sustainability’.

Like me, he believes Buea is the future of technology in Cameroon.

Without knowing, Duplex has re-inspired me.  He MUST be on my podcast!

Buea is at the foot of Mount Fako. It bears the University of Buea at its bossom-a rich gathering of the best minds from all  corners of the National territory. The heat kills me. The mosquitoes sometimes get the better of me. I can’t code (yet). I can’t design (yet). I don’t live in Silicon Valley (yet?) I don’t have a camera. I don’t have a Dictaphone. Hell, it is 2.48 am and I don’t even have internet access to post this right now.

The future is at the foot of this mountain.

I can’t code.

But I am sure going to write the hell out of this Silicon Mountain.

L-R: Ngah Kenneth , Otto Akama and Duplex

P.S: His name is Tony Kamdjou. Duplex is just a nickname. Oops. Just found out a few minutes ago when editing. Too lazy Didn’t want to edit. Plus..it sounds more dramatic.

😛

Tech Labour Day : A Hangout of sorts

Queen Semantics

Queen Semantics

I did not take pictures. Almost intentionally. It was pure fun. I did not spend as much time as the others, but I enjoyed the evening. I would love to say “Twas the perfect way to end Labor Day” but…with my fly, you know what I think of Labor Day.

I was in school stalking a girl checking my Facebook feed when Mo sent me an SMS:

“We’re at Dream Lounge. Pass by”.

Twenty minutes later, I am at the venue- music, lights and the clinging smoke caress my influenza nose.

It was the perfect techie getaway. Three tables, dudes, ladies, drinks, noise and smoke.

Brilliant.

Present at the table were Otto Akama,  Community Manager at ACTIVspaces Buea, Mohammed ‘Mo’ Felata (Founder at IMXsystems), Ngah Kenneth of LCMtours with his sister Clotilde ( a Fashion Design enthusiast) , Bermond Yange and Collins Epey both of Colorfluid, Eddie, my main man Albert ‘Al’ Banda (Note: He is from A Tribe of Lions), Achombom of Unique Printers, Mr. Rodrigue  (we spoke a little about this new banking software he specializes in), and Duplex .

Yes. That is his name. And, you want to remember it.

There were other persons (ladies) at the table when I came in. I was too shy to greet everyone did not want to interrupt conversations. So, I took my seat around the 11 or so man table and started chatting away with Al. It has been a while since we did.

A couple of weeks ago, I had seen this Facebook page he had invited me to like. I didn’t pay much attention to it. But, listening to Al describe his new merge of Chess Art and Technology can only be described as infectious. He learned a new programming knowledge a few months ago just to achieve this. The concept is simple:

“Is a programmer just a programmer or could he/she be an artist…and could this art be visualized?”-Albert Banda

Al’s programme produces art from the movements of chess pieces on a chess board. According to Al, the game of chess has  beauty and his job is to express it. You can check the Facebook page here for yourself.

Transforming Chess into an Art form

 

Because I came a little late, many of the guys had already…well…started getting drunk drinking.  Bermond and Otto were chatting about why the Newera Publishers‘ comic would or would not pickup in the African community.

If you have been following the Cameroonian tech scene, a  lot has been happening. I actually believe less than 40 percent of startups (or projects) revolving around technology are reported. Dzekashu Macviban is doing a wonderful job of bridging that gap. Read his recent article on Ntef Alain’s Gifted Mom .

Al also mentioned a budding video game which would soon hit the streets from the astute programmer Raymond ‘Blanco’ Mbah. Together with Bermond, Blanco has released a few Android games. I’ll admit I was pretty bored with them. I am not a Temple Run fan. Then again, it’s not as though I have a credit card to buy games…so…what choice do I really have?

According to Al, Blanco’s current project could change the face of the African gaming scene. If and only if he (Blanco) made a few tweaks.

The exasperation in Al’s voice when I asked whether he had implemented the tweaks killed my dream of writing on the next ‘thing’. Blanco, apparently, won’t implement the suggestions. But, who knows the future?

I sure don’t.

When it comes to games made by Cameroonian techies, one that has received a lot of acclaim is Aurion by Kiro’o Games.

I first came across the game and its creators during the 2013 BarCamp with took place here in Buea at the Catholic University Institute of Buea. My first impression (which still stands as at now) is that the game is not (as Seth Godin would put it) ‘sticky’. I don’t see myself playing it. It is too… ‘clean’? To me, it lacks the essential ‘Africanness’ which could imbue the product with ‘stickablity’ among Africans.

Al, Bermond, Otto and I agree that the guys from Newera Publishers  (promoters of a new form of online story telling though comics) need to rethink their content and capitalize on ‘Africanness’.

We have a huge legacy for crying out loud!! I’ll admit I am a fan of Mangas (*One Piece Rooooocks!) and video games (I have this new strange addiction to Plants VS Zombies. It used to be the Call of Duty Modern Warfare series. Dunno what happened.

Anyway, here is the bottom line from the Blanco/Aurion/Newera discussion:

Africa needs storytellers who tell African stories using (rich) African content with a propensity towards Africanness.  

Now, this is where I got my kick from this tech hangout. Otto turned   pointed towards me to the quiet young man at my lefthand side:

“That is the richest man on the table”.

He might have been a little tipsy but his statement definitely stirred my attention. I am superficial. I didn’t measure the young man with regular eye glasses, cream shirt and the bottle of Guinness Smooth in front of him as much.  What I would later come to find out is that Otto was not far from the truth.

The young man in question was Duplex.