Trickle Down Technology?

Africa is hotbed of technology and innovation. Of course then, it is no surprise that Nairobi is the Silicon Valley of Africa. Every corner you turn, you’ll hear of a new venture designed to alleviate the qualms of poor using mobile technology and many bright graduates of top universities are using their prestigious degrees for good.

It got me thinking, long-term, does trickle down technology work? Can a foreigner take their initiative and skills to solve the problems of the poor using the latest and greatest in mobile technology? Will this lead to more robust African technology in development? I have been meeting a lot of social entrepreneurs that are trying to do just that recently and wonder when technology is concerned, what is the best path forward? And can we better support African software developers take the lead on designing solutions for African problems?

Ken Banks wrote a thoughtful piece in the Stanford Social Innovation Review on the explosion of mobile technologies in “The Truth About Disruptive Development.” He discusses some of the drawbacks of foreign-led initiatives and raises concerns of imported solutions that squash African-led initiative and development, “We shouldn’t take ownership of a problem that isn’t ours, and we certainly shouldn’t build “solutions” from thousands of miles away and then jump on a plane in search of a home for them.”

How much help are imported ideas? What are your thoughts? When it comes to doing good work using technology, what is the right way to do it?