Computer Curious retells my 2003-2004 adventures of exotic discomfort on the open road (in Gambia, Senegal, Ghana), ill-conceived conceits to bring Internet to remote villages, launching rocket yams in the name of science, wandering through a refugee camp as a letter courier, hobnobbing with power mongers of the digital era in African capitols, and – more generally – the journey to understand how education fosters creativity.
Back in the early 2000s, before Facebook existed, before Google was a verb, African youths were flocking to the Internet. I trekked across Gambia, Senegal, and Ghana in search of what drew them to the Internet. After visits to 30 schools and hundreds of Interviews, I discovered that curiosity and a drive to create in a culture where education stifles creativity was the deeper reason behind the allure of the Internet.
In this book I focus on why and how computer culture evolved in Africa, and wrap it in my own narrative of discovery. These stories also illustrate the twisted fate of “development work.” It illustrates the good that a Peace Corps Volunteer and Fulbright Researcher can do in Africa, and offers cautionary tales of ignorant people who try too hard to help without listening to the people they aim to serve. These stories from the dawn of the computer age in Africa offer poignant lessons on how we can tell the difference – and it’s time we learned how. I hope this book inspires and instructs others who started out as naive as I was, but are willing to work with others to build a brighter, more creative world.