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Shadows of the Industry - Uncovering Africa’s Innovation Actors

The Computer History Museum organizes a special screening of the Venture documentary that showcases the growth of African innovation

MENLO PARK, CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES, July 17, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ -- Tim Berners-Lee, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Safra Catz, Jeff Bezos, Ursula Burns, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg - these are celebrated giants of today’s technology industry. The technology ventures that they lead have revolutionized the way we interact as a species. These forces of the information revolution, and the troops that implement their innovations, are known as heroes to many; masterminds sitting behind the screens and systems, whose genius we can only hope to emulate. But somewhere behind these giants, are African magicians whose contributions to global innovation have been forgotten in history, and whose legacies we must preserve and honor.

With a steely determination in himself, a young Philip Emeagwali, was driven by an incessant curiosity to learn, seek, and ultimately uncover truth. Though Emeagwali’s childhood was rocked and disrupted by the the Nigerian civil war in which he fought, he was able to re-immerse himself in his educational ambitions in the aftermath of the turmoil. In 1974, Emeagwali was inspired by a 1922 science fiction novel to use 64,000 processors distributed around the world to forecast the weather, a system he called a HyperBall network. Many doubted, and outrightly rejected Emeagwali’s theory thinking it impossible. Despite the naysayers, and driven by a desire to test his theory, he gained access to the Los Alamos National Laboratory through which he remotely programmed 65,536 processors to perform 3.1 billion calculations per second. This incredible feat introduced the power and capabilities of supercomputers, and laid the foundation for a variety of computational models across a myriad of industries including, but not limited to, finance(high frequency trading and analysis), health sciences (medical imagery and diagnostics), computing(big data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence) and energy (geological modeling and analysis).

Equally brilliant, and foundational to our modern technological lives was Kitaw Ejigu. A man of towering intellect, Ethiopia’s first aerospace scientist was born in Bonga town in the south-western province of Jaffa. After completing secondary school in Jimma province, Ejigu would go on to graduate top of his class from Bahir Dar Polytechnic Institute with a degree in mechanical engineering. Through his ingenuity, he developed the Global Positioning System (GPS), a technology that has permeated almost every aspect of our technological lives, and revolutionized mapping and location technology globally. Later, In 1986, Rockwell International hired Ejigu as their Project Manager in the Advanced Programs Engineering Department, and it was during this time Ejigu helped set our collective sights on Mars. Through his direction and leadership, Rockwell underwent research and development of the Lunar/Mars Micro-Rover in support of NASA's future exploration missions. Until his passing, Ejigu worked to ensure that technological advancements were felt across the pond, touching the lives of young Africans, and empowering them with the tools to pick up, and carry the baton.

Now, we are poised to add new voices to African technology history.

The Computer History Museum, as the world’s leading institution in exploring the history of computing and its ongoing impact on society, understands the value of resurfacing lost files. By recognizing that past, we place the innovations of the present, and the possibilities of the future, into proper perspective. Stretched across the Atlantic, scattered in fragments throughout history, the story of African innovation is not new, it has simply been hiding.

This new age of African curiosity, resilience, enterprise, and entrepreneurship presents a new chapter, set to its own soundtrack and broadcast strategies. The new age of African Innovation is ever-evolving and filled with tales of adventure, great successes and inspiration. A pertinent presentation of this new age is the Venture documentary, a film that shares the entrepreneurial journeys of a new generation of African Innovators.

Join me for a special screening of Venture at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View,on July 28, 2017 at 6 p.m., and join the post-screening panel to discuss and explore the power that current African innovators hold in this new age, and the impact our forgotten magicians of industry have played in paving the way forward.

Chinwe Ohanele is an attorney licensed in New York, New Jersey, and California. She is a Legal Associate with The African Technology Foundation where she provides support to African ventures.

Aliesha Balde
African Technology Foundation
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Distribution channels: Technology