These are my thoughts on the future of the software development industry in Uganda, after the official announcement of ThoughtWorks closure of the Kampala office (http://info.thoughtworks.com/Kampala-office.html).
I would like to approach this first of all by analyzing the contribution of ThoughtWorks to the Ugandan technology space, then what I see the future as.
ThoughtWorks contribution in two aspects – showing that its possible to run a pure-play software development business operation out of Kampala using Ugandan based talent, and the second providing an injection of new DNA into the local technology community. The exposure to international level processes, practices and projects have helped grow the experience of the local software development talent.
Local communities have been started & supported, included but not limited to Agile Uganda, Geek Night, Girl Geek Dinners (yay! Women in Tech), Rails Girls and Ruby Fridays. The OpenMRS community run a number of events to help grow its reach, while the Technology Radar discussions provided a continuous look into the present and future of computing. The contributions leave the local technology space different from three years ago.
What does the future look like? A tough question, and my answer is biased by over 15 years experience writing software in Uganda, my overbearing optimism, and my newly rekindled foray back into software development.
The future is bright, but can only be harnessed if the business and technology communities work hand in hand to grow the local technology capability. In this, a concerted effort to build a local technology practice with buyers pushing for a local component on all contracts leveraging open source. A good example is the Ministry of Health selection of OpenMRS (http://openmrs.org) as the EMR of choice for electronic medical records throughout the country with aggregate reporting done in DHIS2. There are lots of opportunities in leveraging technology in the agriculture and education sectors which remain new frontiers to be conquered.
I would further call upon the government entities and parastatals KCCA, URA, UMEME, NWSC to leverage OpenData approaches to provide the infrastructure for young innovators to build and monetize customer centric products and services.
Like Ghandi said, be the change you want to be in the world in this case “Coding in Uganda, for Ugandans, by Ugandans”.
Gakyali Mabaga (it is just the beginning)