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Code for Africa: The Emergence of Computer Science in Ghana and Uganda

Gregg Zachary, Arizona State UniversityCodeForAfrica

CITRIS (Ctr for Info Technology Research in the Interest of Society)

Formal training in computer science and engineering is undergoing a revolution in East and West Africa. More than a decade after the introduction of the affordable Internet and low-cost computers to each of these African sub-regions, the era of self-taught, bottoms-up software programming and computer science is coming to an end. Formal, university-based CS education is growing in quality in East and West Africa, promising deeper, more sustainable understanding of digital technologies in these sub-regions. In the best universities in Uganda and Ghana, new and increasingly original research is laying the foundations for the creation of authentic and even world-class CS knowledge enterprises, especially at the nexus of mobile communications, media and information services. The first evidence of an authentic East African research agenda is beginning to be seen. Obstacles to East and West Africans joining the mainstream of global CS research remain stubbornly high, but because of unique social, economic and cultural conditions in East and West Africa, the possibility is growing that CS researchers from these sub-regions will make significant, world-class contributions in coming decades. More broadly, the emergence of CS in sub-Saharan Africa could help orient digital innovation more towards the authentic needs and realities of life in developing regions, thus helping to reduce and perhaps (ultimately) nullify an innovation “gap” that has disadvantaged peoples of the developing world since the dawn of digital computing.