Why are Nigerian Hacker’s so Smart? (expanded version)

Disclosure: (I) Nigerian Hackers may be smart, but 2 things are sure, they are not innovative and definitely not original. (II) The word “HACKER” as used in the context of this blog post, is used to describe individuals who develop innovate solutions around software and hardware problems. And the word “HACKER” and “PROGRAMMER” will be used interchangeably in this blog post and actually mean the same thing.

Hackers in Nigeria are an endangered species, a group of people who despite their obvious talent have the whole system around them working together in concert to stop them dead in their tracks on the race to achieving their dreams. There are many factors which include:

1. Electricity supply: Constant electricity supply here in Nigeria is as rare to find as gold itself. This blog post is written on a laptop powered by an inverter which was charged by a generator. So if a hacker isnt buoyant enough to get a generator and also foot the cost of fueling it what then happens to his productivity? What can he develop? How does he use the power of software and hardware to develop innovative solutions to problems?

2. Venture Capital/Funding: I do not know of any venture capital firms or “Angels” here in Nigeria, neither do I know if any startup incubators whether private or owned by the government exist. Nigeria is a country that has a high corruption index, and most people buoyant enough to become “Angels” would rather stash their cash in foreign banks, stock their harems with new wives and pay for irrelevant chieftancy titles than invest their money in startups. Also companies and corporate entities will rather sponsor reality shows like “Gulder Ultimate Seach”, “Big Brother Africa/Nigeria”, singing competitions like “Naija sings”, “idols West Africa” etc. I have a simple question to ask: do these events/competitions add any value to this country called Nigeria? Apart from acting as poverty alleviation programs for the winners of such competitions? Do they lead us down the part of the fabled 20:2020 goal of the federal government? The answer is no!!! No intellectual value is added to citizens of this country, rather is makes the youths of this country intellectually and morally lazy and takes away the respect that comes with the reward of hard work, as they now believe that these competitions is the sure and quickest way out of the pit of joblessness, idleness, poverty and despondency that their country Nigeria and her leaders has thrown them into. Now the average youth in Nigeria wants to be either a singer, dancer, musician or actor. Just imagine if there were companies/individuals willing and ready to sponsor hackertons, codejams and programming Olympiads in this country. Imagine what the products of such events would foretell for the future of the IT industry in particular and the country in general. What impact it would have on the GDP of this country if such products grew to the scale of the Google’s, Facebook’s and Microsoft’s of this world. India earns more from outsourcing and IT related activities than Nigeria earns from her so called “black gold”, why can’t Nigeria do same? Imagine the number of “yahoo boys” i.e. fraudsters that would become reformed if they knew that redirecting that skills to productive and positive ventures in IT would earn them more than their “pie in the sky maga paying”? Just imagine!!!

3. A decent and enabling environment: Nigeria can be described in a few words as “Hell on Earth” or “A graveyard, where dreams go to die”. A place where the average citizen has to provide his own light, water, security, transportation and even roads. With so many things to think and worry about, how do you expect hackers to engage in productive intellectual activities which require a clear mind and deep concentration?

There are a myriad of problems facing the average “joe” hacker in Nigeria and it is kind of painful and frustrating to see these same hackers overcome these problems and at the end produce 1:1 clones of Twitter, Facebook and SMF powered forums when there are a million and one problems that innovative solutions from them will solve, thereby leading them to their fabled pot of gold. This is a wakeup call to all hackers in Nigeria, this is a new year 2011, a fresh start for all of us. Lets get innovative, let’s think outside the box, lets show them that we can do it and let’s make the IT industry as vibrant and if not more than the music industry in Nigeria.

Let me leave with this parting note:

May you come to the attention of those in authority,

May you find what you are looking for,

May you live in interesting times.

Chinese saying.

-Ehigie (Pystar) Aito.