Just a few years ago, I was living in rural southeastern Nigeria and had nothing but a basic Nokia 2690 phone -- and a big dream to improve the world using technology.
Here's my journey from "village boy" to the epicenter of West Africa's tech boom.
I began programming at 11 years old. As a kid I spent hours on websites and downloading and playing the latest games. After a while I became curious about how websites, which seemed to exist almost by magic, were built -- and how I could build one myself.
My first step was, like most people, to Google it. This led me to the W3Schools
tutorials, a handy site where you can learn to program.
To build a website I needed a computer, but no one in my family could afford one. Luckily, my relative gave me a Nokia 2690 phone. It wasn't very advanced, but adequate enough for me to learn the language of programming.
The new Zuckerberg?
Once I had become a capable programmer, the idea for my first web project was sparked after I watched The Social Network movie, which about the founding of Facebook.
I was inspired by Mark Zuckerberg. But I wanted to go further and create something better. At that time Facebook was set up to connect people you already knew, but I wanted to create a platform which connected everybody.
After some time and a lot of effort, my attempt to replace Facebook fell through. I couldn't get enough users to sign up on the website. The few that signed up didn't stick around because there was only a few people to chat with.
A new idea, a new app
I quickly moved onto my next idea: an app that makes it easy to send text messages to multiple people at once and at an affordable price. The cost of sending text messages in Nigeria was around $0.013, I planned on reducing it to $0.005.
To build the app, I learned a new programming language called Java. I also needed to have a computer to compile the code, but I still couldn't afford one. Fortunately, I was able to find a way to build an app right on my Nokia phone, through an application called J2ME SDK Mobile
I spent days programming, carefully typing everything on the phone's small number pad. After a few months, I had built the website and the app.