So last week I was with a friend of mine who does a lot of IT freelance consulting in the city of Nairobi. He wanted my opinion on how to solve a particular problem that he had come across. The problem is this:
There is a client who runs a certain business that generates a lot of text files (about 10,000 a week). These are small and simple text files but they are important hence they need to be backed up and also uploaded to a website online. How do you reliably automate this?
Apparently the solution he was looking for was a program that he could buy that does this. Nothing wrong with that, right? Yes. But this is not the first time I have come across such a relatively simple problem that computing can solve. All of them follow the same basic pattern: a company needs a way to automate one of their internal processes, usually to reduce some costs and they give their usual “IT person” the task to find a solution for them. Said IT person then finds some software to do the job or one that comes close. Almost always, the end result is a compromise because little software out there really ever does exactly what your company’s peculiar processes need.
The thing that nags me about all this is that most of these problems can be solved by a good programmer in little time. And the best part… the resulting solution will not be a compromise, the programmer can build a solution that exactly matches the needs. We’re not talking about huge programs like Ms Word or even Notepad or Ms Paint, most of these solutions can be done by a tiny little ‘script’.
So this begs the questions: are there no programmers who can come up with these little scripts? Why is the default solution always to look for some software “out there”?
Where do all the programmers go after they graduate from the seemingly millions of computer colleges in town?