I came across an interesting statement by a Friend on Facebook that has prompted this article. Here it is:
“Nigerian techies are divided in two groups. The guys who can write code and the guys who can’t. Right now, the non-coders are doing better.”
What I want to delve into here is this dichotomy of coders and non-coders in the definition (and application) of “techie” as commonly used in the Nigerian tech ecosystem. By definition, a coder is a programmer: someone who writes codes. So, in the context of this article, we are looking at the dichotomy between those who can code and those who cannot.
This reminds me of something that was said at an edition of Mobile Monday that I attended here in Lagos many months ago. One of the speakers had just taken the platform and one of his first statements was, “If you don’t know how to code, I wonder what you are doing here“. Now, consider that MobileMonday™ (MoMo) is an open community platform of mobile industry visionaries, developers and influential individuals, and it is clear how way off a statement like that is.
Yes; there it was: that dichotomy again. Coders versus the rest of the world. No; scratch that: it actually sounded like a painting of coders as God’s gift to techies, and an exclusive inner club to which outsiders are not welcome. That simple statement captures an aspect of the problems that bedevil the Nigerian technology space.
Having pointed out the dichotomy that I wish to address, let’s have a look at what “techies” in general are all about. Here is Merriam-Websters’ definition of TECHIE:
: a person who is very knowledgeable or enthusiastic about technology and especially high technology
The natural question that comes to mind is: Apart from coders, who else are the techies? I am not a coder. Beyond intermediate HTML/CSS and basic PHP skills, I am not into any sort of code. However, I know the system well enough to offer a few tips as to who non-coding techies are. Here:
- enthusiast users (like the majority of those who visit MOBILITY.com.ng)
- hardware technologists and engineers
- graphics designers
- user interface specialists
- business administrators and strategists
- media and publicity people
- investors & financiers
I am sure that the above list is not exhaustive. I outlined those few to present how deep and wide the tech ecosystem is, and to show how that being a coder is only a minute aspect of the technology ecosystem. I understand that software programming has come a long way and that there is a new focus on software as a key part of technology. Perhaps that confers some feeling of exclusivity on coders.
Yet, software runs on hardware. Software must meet usability standards. Software must be properly marketed (you know that lie about “If you build it, they will come”), and it takes business acumen to transfer software into cash.
My point? It might be time for people to get rid of statements and attitudes that pit coders against the rest of the system, and instead forge team building.
There is often a lot of noise about collaboration. It is exactly what I have called it – a lot of noise. Behind the scenes and in everyday actions, there is little to suggest that people really believe in it. Instead, there is a lot of backstabbing and actions that nurture distrust. People crusade for collaboration in public, but by their very actions make it difficult, if not impossible.
The phrase “Right now, the non-coders are doing better,” taken from the first paragraph of this article, speaks volumes. The most important thing that it says is that coders are not going to succeed by acting in isolation from the rest of the ecosystem. It captures that point vividly.
An Example from Web Development
I ran a web host for almost a decade, so I understand the web terrain. The Nigerian web development environment has come a long way. Yet, how many truly successful websites do we have? What percentage of Nigerian websites developed since say 2005 have been commercially successful?
Many of those websites are launched with fanfare and then fade into obscurity and sometimes death. Mobile app development here is even younger than web development. That means lessons can be learned from the former and applied, so that we move forward faster.
The question is, Are we ready and willing to do so, or will we dig deeper into our trenches?
Whether it is about mobile apps, web apps or just good old websites, if we are serious about moving the system forward, this dichotomy must go. We must thin out that dividing line in our interactions.
Back to the quote that prompted this article, I don’t really care which group is doing better now – coders or non-coders. Honestly, it wouldn’t even be an issue if the dichotomy didn’t exist, as everyone would be too busy working together and reaping the rewards together. Right now, techies from all walks need to find ways to work together and not highlight what divides them.
Or perhaps I am just being naive and have no idea what exactly it takes to make this thing work.