It’s been a little over a year since I stopped working on Geekcorps, and I’m finally getting to the point where I don’t get introduced on stage or in interviews as “the founder of Geekcorps”. And, occasional rant aside, I don’t spent much time these days thinking about what the organization is doing – or not doing. In the past few days, though, I’ve had a pair of reminders that one never escapes the past – events one helped set into motion continue long beyond one’s involvement.
At a pub in London, I caught up with Tomas Krag, who’s now been a close friend for so long, I tend to forget that I met him when he became one of Geekcorps’ first volunteers to serve in Ghana. Tomas has gone on to become one of the leading figures in the Wireless for Development movement, organizing meetings around the world to bring together geeks who are working on ways to “wire” the developing world without using wires. Tomas brought with him Ian Howard, who stepped down last week as the head of Geekcorps’ office in Bamako, Mali, where he’s been overseeing efforts to bring wireless connectivity and audio editing techologies to community radio stations in Mali. (For an amazing story, read Sebastien Henschel’s trip report of a mission to Radio Beeray in Bourem Inaly, a village located a convenient 14 hour drive from cosmopolitan Tombouctou.) The two were in town to write a book on wireless networking in the developing world alongside hackers from London and Berlin – I’m convinced that wireless is going to be a critical part of data infrastructure for Africa and am thrilled that two of the pioneers in the field are Geekcorps alums.
When I arrived home yesterday, I found an email waiting for me from Jessica Mitchell, one of Geekcorps’ longest serving volunteers in Ghana. Jess’s three month assignment to help get the Ghana Internet Exchange point off the ground turned into a year-long organizational and fundraising epic. She returned home to North Carolina last year with the hope that the GIX would get off the ground despite the lack of her constant pressure for Internet Service Providers to overcome their distrust of one another and start sharing data… and it has. The Ghana Internet Exchange launches on October 18th – Jess’s email included a letter of thanks from Eric Osiakwan, heaping praise on her for her role in getting the GIX off the ground. Like wireless, internet exchange points are part of the toolkit that will help African nations control their data infrastructure and find ways to connect to the rest of the world sustainability – it’s about time Ghana had one, and Jess deserves a great deal of the credit for helping make it possible.
My personal happiness tends to have too much to do with what I have or haven’t achieved on a given day – it’s an awfully nice reminder that one can take at least as much pride in achievements you’ve helped other people make… even if all you did was set a process in motion.
It saddens me that Mr Osiakwan has been a little economical with his statements on the set up of the Ghana IXP and we challenge him to dispute our version of events. GISPA had been talking forever about the IXP and nothing materialised. Our last Deputy Minister, then Hon David Gyewu drafted a document on what had to be done including dealing with the management of Ghana’s .gh domain. He requested assistance from GeekCorps who provided the tireless Jessica who worked with the Deputy Minister to make this happen. The Dep. Minister arranged for the IXP to be at the current location rent-free and spoke to the regulator the NCA for a significant amount of the frequency licence fee to be waived for the exchanged. Credit where credit is due. Government is not always bad and the work done by the Ministry should have ben credited, maybe Eric who came along after most of this had been done was not aware but the likes of Estelle of BusyInetrnet does.