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Google Coding Winner Has No Internet Connection

By Andy Franco , Feb 11, 2017 11:33 AM EST
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The very first African winner of Google Code-in contest in 2016 has been cut off from the Internet. The 17-year-old Nji Collins Gbah lives in Bamenda, which is located in the North-West of Cameroon. It also takes about seven hours by road from the capita. He is now 370km (or 230 miles) from home in his cousin's house following a government shutdown of internet connection in English-speaking regions.

Before there was Google's Code Next, which is an educational facility that focused on teaching African-Americans and Latinos how to code, there was Google Code-in. It started in 2010 and is a global online contest for pre-university between the ages of 13 and 17. The participants complete "bite sized" open source programming tasks. 1,340 students from 62 countries completed 6,418 before the end of the competition. 34 teenagers completed 842 tasks and became the contest champions. To enter the contest, the participants only needed to have access to the Internet, a Google Account, a valid postal address and lastly, a valid email address.

Nji participated in Code-in, using all the knowledge he gathered from his two years of learning how to code. The Cameroonian teen mainly learned from online sources and books. Nji was in his last year at Government Bilingual High School, Bamenda, Cameroon when he joined the Google Code-in. Apparently, it was also the first time anyone from Africa took part in the contest.

Nji ended up finishing 20 of the given tasks, which cover all five categories given by Google. One task can even take a full week to finish. After that, the internet connection suddenly was not available anymore just a day after the deadline for final contest submissions.

In the past year, there seems to have been several internet connection shutdowns going on by African governments that insist the move is to prevent violence or the circulation of false election results. The areas include parts of Ethiopia, Gabon, The Gambia, Morocco and Uganda.

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