Imani Honours Late Guido Sohne

Monday, August 10, 2009

Accra — At the closing ceremony of its residential seminar (SYPALA 2009) for young students and professionals, IMANI Ghana honoured the late Guido Sohne, a Ghanaian freelance software developer and consultant by christening an award in his name – "Sohne Prize for African Innovation."

It is said of Guido that he, at a very young age, ventured into the ICT industry and broke barriers to become one of Africa’s most innovative software developers active in the African technology environment.

"He was one of the early founding members of the Free and Open Source Foundation for Africa as well as being part of the FOSSFA Council. However, he resigned due to differences over governance and direction of the organization and moved on to establish a new organization called AfricanIntelligence with the purpose of focusing on developing developers rather than promoting open source software."

"He was responsible for the first Open Source project in West Africa (and possibly in sub-Saharan Africa as well) and won awards for creating two of Africa’s top fifty websites. He has made minor contributions to OSS projects like the Linux Cross Reference tool, RedHat’s Interchange e-commerce system, Ruby’s Rannotate and JavaScript and Ruby implementations of a 2D barcode system, DataMatrix aka Semacode."

IMANI Ghana said of the late innovator thus, "Guido Sohne was quite simply Ghana’s and Africa’s most passionate and most visionary enthusiast of the use of technology innovation to redeem Africa from the maginalisation caused by poverty, especially technical poverty. It is apt that a Prize aimed at celebrating "Excellence" should be dedicated to his memory."

Better still, Franklin Cudjoe of IMANI Ghana, a think tank, told Public Agenda that Africa ought to diversify its economy through the use of technology. As such, there was the need to identify and encourage the sons and daughters of the continent who have the creative ability to make technology work for Africa. IMANI Ghana, he noted, therefore found it worthwhile to dedicate an award to the memory of a son of the continent who has left an indelible footprint on the sands of time.

Eric Osiakwan, another ICT guru in his own right and a friend to Guido was full of praise for his deceased colleague. He said Guido was a young African who took bold steps in the ICT industry to achieve great things. "I have being with Guido through the thick and thin, he had such a strong intellectual ability to argue issues and I always enjoyed doing great intellectual exchanges with him from the real world into virtual space and back."

Guido Sohne died in Nirobi, Kenya in May 2008 at the young age of 34 whilst working for Microsoft on a project targeted at 52 African countries.

Aside tributes to Guido, the awards night was used to highlight the essence of technology as a driver of change. Speaking on the subject matter, another colleague of Guido’s Kobena Jackson underscored the need for Africa to use technology to transform its largely agrarian economies into modern ones capable of competing with the rest of the world. He said Africans need to "reorient our minds" towards adopting "appropriate technology for our environment."

The awards night was also spiced up by a poetry recital from Prof. Atukwei Okai who sent most of the audience into a frenzied mood with "The young ones that ride with God" one of his celebrated works. The recital particularly thrilled the Nigerian participants who saw a lot to identify with in the Yuroba suffused poem.

Prof. Atukwei Okai used the poem to illustrate the point that young people have an opportunity to discover their God given talents and use them to make a difference in the world.

As if to drum the message home better, Gurdip Harri of IPMC, an ICT training centre said since he was created in the image of God, man was a god in his own right and that there was something each individual could do better than all others. As such, he advised the SYPALA 2009 participants, there was the need for every individual to identify their "unique talent" and "polish it."

Gurdip Harri, who is also an award winning author, advocated strongly for people to live healthy lives by taking good care of their body or as he put it "the temple" in order to become better unto themselves and their societies.

In a keynote address, the Australian High Commissioner to Ghana Mr. William (Billy) Williams advised young people to imbibe the spirit of community service and volunteerism. He used the Australian example to illustrate how such acts of altruism could save a lot of money for the government of a country as well as promote fellow feeling and brotherliness.