Reporting from QCon day 1

Wednesday morning we're greeted with sunshine and a busy tuberide to Westminster. The conference is full - sold out - and it shows, there's a lot of buzz.
 
The opening keynote is probably the best opening keynote I've ever seen at a software conference. Half of the audience is close to tears mid-talk in a very engaging story of all the engineering that went into going to the moon in the 60s. The speaker, Russ Olsen, was 10 years old when the moon landing happened, and he relates to us how watching it shaped his ambition and his career. There's a lot of good lessons to learn from studying the moon landing, but I'll remember two things: first, piloting the moon lander was a great example of pair astronauting. Second, the first words to reach us from the surface of the moon were a bunch of geeky gobbledygook.
 
As everyone queues up to leave the keynote room, everyone is pressing the green smiley for "good talk" and there's a great vibe. This is promising to be a good conference!
 
Of course after a keynote like that, the following sessions are not all going to be equally engaging, but I do learn a lot of stuff that I wanted to learn. Doing the devops/cont delivery open space was nice to share some of our experiences.
 
The closing keynote has a very different energy. This is not an experienced keynoter (Enyo Kumahor) with a well-rehearsed story and great pictures throughout their slidedeck. But everyone there does seem to listen up and pay close attention, because of the topic: what is going on with technology, internet, and how it is enabling improvements in Africa. Key takeaway for me is that most Western-driven projects to "help Africa", from OLPC to identity card projects, basically don't work out well.

The projects that work are done locally, with Africans in the lead, doing very frugal IT. Best example, I thought, was the health care record management they put in place in - IIRC - Ghana. The trick was not electronic records, but putting barcodes on paper records that are then kept on better shelves. The best thing we as the Western IT community can do is mentor, train, and provide access to information. I get Enyo's card and start thinking about how we can meaningfully participate in that as Schuberg Philis. Perhaps we can do a trial where we host some of these promising Ghanese IT-ers next time we arrange internal training?











 

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