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Spotlight: Google Program Manager Talks About Offline Developer Kits For Bandwidth Challenged Users

Earlier this month Google announced that it was making developer content available offline. Today in the spotlight, we are talking to Chukwuemeka Afigbo a Google Program Manager in Developer Ecosystems about the Offline Developer Content that Google has provided to different Google Developer Groups (GDGs) across the Globe.

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Chukwuemeka Afigbo, Google Program Manager, Developer Ecosystems

Mr. Afigbo, if there was a movie made about your life, who would you want to play you and why?

Hahaha.

I would say someone like Will Smith. Why? Because he would do a good job at making me appear more interesting than I actually am.

Tell us about your background and your role at Google and maybe what you do in the 20% time that Google gives back to it’s employees.

I got my first degree in Electronic Engineering at the University of Nigeria Nsukka. I started my professional life as a Java web developer in SocketWorks Limited, which was a startup which at the time was focused on helping tertiary institutions bring their core processes online. I think I was employee number 8 or something. The company later grew to a level where we were doing projects across Africa and even made some forays into Asia. After spending 6 years at SocketWorks where I rose to be the manager in charge of solutions architecture, I then joined Parkway Projects , a company specializing in electronic banking and payments, as lead for strategic business initiatives which was more of business development.

While there I became active in the local developer ecosystem where I founded the Lagos Google Technology User Group, now known as the Lagos Google Developer Group. In between, while working at SocketWorks, I managed to complete my Masters Degree in Technology Innovations Management with Carleton University. Shortly after this I joined Google as a program manager for developer outreach in the Emerging Markets team. I am currently a program manager in the Developer Ecosystems team. I have been in Google for about 3 years.

For my 20% time , I would say that I spend most of it pitching in to help my colleagues in other teams carry out initiatives that I believe would contribute to building the tech ecosystem in Africa.

For example last week I was at an event organized by a team within Google focused on small business owners for whom the web is a major channel. I spent sometime speaking to them on the value of embracing user centered design as they develop their websites because as we know at Google, if you focus on the user, everything else will follow.

Another example is when in October I was in Ghana with our Education Outreach team helping to mentor the current generation of Google Student Ambassadors on what it takes to build a great career in computer science.

What inspired you to put all the developer content that is available online, to be distributed offline?

Google has a lot of great content online for developers but as you know, access to fast and reliable internet is a challenge in many regions of the world particularly Sub Saharan Africa. This has greatly hampered developer productivity. A lot of work is going into improving internet access but in the mean time we believe that developers in internet challenged regions need quick and easy access to the same content that other developers with great internet have access to.

This is why we decided to run this pilot program to see if and how the ecosystem will react to having this content made available in offline format. So far the response has been very encouraging.

What have you learnt from the feedback that you are getting from the communities that received these DVDs?

Like I said earlier, the reaction so far has been very positive. A number of individuals have even taken it upon themselves to re-distribute the content amongst other developers in their communities which is something that we encourage. I spoke with a developer whose only regret is that he did not get this content a few months ago when he was working on his killer app because after watching some of the tutorial videos, he discovered a lot of mistakes that he could have avoided.

We also got feedback from another Google Developer Group who had a meetup where they were able to watch 17 Tutorial videos at a stretch. This was unthinkable just some weeks ago because they would have had to have flawless internet access to be able to do this. Developers are now able to install all sorts of software developer kits (SDKs) in seconds , this is something that used to take them hours (even days) to download and install with little or no internet.

A number of developers have also found the offline content as a useful companion as they go through the online Udacity Courses from Google. This is because with the DVDs, they do not need to be online to watch the Udacity tutorial videos. This leads to a lot of savings in terms of time and cost of internet access.

The list goes on and on.

However because this is a pilot, there are still a number things that need improving and in typical Google fashion we will continue to iterate on this so as to give a better experience to the developers for whom this initiative was started.

What other initiatives is the developer relations team at Google is working on, that you wouldn’t want our readers to miss out on?

Our overall goal is to contribute to growing the African tech ecosystem by helping developers build amazing things. This involves everything from user centered design and development to startup oriented events.  In 2015, we will be announcing a number of community focused initiatives that we hope will excite your readers. I would ask them to continue to watch this space, as well as the Google Africa Blog.

 

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Nicholas Kamanzi

Computer Engineer and Tech Reviewer.
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