One of our continents is missing

I’ve just returned from the 16th International World Wide Web Conference in Banff, Canada. As you’d expect from such a prestigious annual event, no expense was spared in making the experience as productive and pleasurable as possible for the thousands of delegates who attended. With the beautiful Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, what better place to network, make new friends and talk about the future of the web? Life can be hard…

The 16th International World Wide Web Conference was interesting for a number of reasons. For a start, the world wide web isn’t really world-wide quite yet, and this was one of the reasons I was invited to attend. On Tuesday I presented a paper on the Mobile Web in Developing Countries, and the day after sat on a panel discussing Web Delivery Models for Developing Regions. I enjoy attending these kinds of events – not only does it give me a chance to see what other people are doing in this emerging ’emerging market’ area, but I also get to profile my own work to a wider audience. After many years working alone in darkened rooms, this is new and refreshing. Fortunately my message is always well received, and seems to strike a chord with most people. It still makes me smile seeing (“Who?”, I hear all the delegates asking!) muscle in on the big guys – Microsoft, MIT, IIT, IBM and so on. Power to the people!

On the downside, the notable lack of African presenters and delegates at the event – the “missing continent” – was rather disappointing (if not unexpected), particularly considering the amount of interest in emerging markets right now, and the drive to connect the last couple of billion people at the bottom of that pyramid. The reasons for this? Well, I doubt that it’s down to a lack of interest from African developers. No doubt they’d jump at the chance to attend something like this. I’d put it down to issues of cost and lack of funding, lack of awareness in both camps, a general lack of focus on the African continent (and why should there be, I guess?) and the fact that not many Africans got invited to this thing. There was, as you’d expect, a strong North American and European contingent, along with plenty of others from Asia. We seem to be creating a continental divide to add to our already well-established digital one.

On a more positive note, over the past few months I’ve come into contact with many people with professional and personal interest in the uses of technology in Africa for positive social and environmental change. Many have been from Africa. Change is in the air…

One thought on “One of our continents is missing

  1. Saara says:

    Oh my, I was so happy when I thought, “oh finally Ken has updated his blog”… Then I started wondering, “why is he writing about Paris Hilton?”. I still decided to comment the writing, trying to come up with something clever to say about the topic.

    Finally, I didn’t send a comment. It appeared that I had been following a wrong RSS feed. That feed belonged to .



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