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Kenyan student attracts Twitter’s attention

By | Updated Wed, January 11th 2012 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Allan Olingo

When you see your seven-year-old child near your laptop or computer, the first words likely to come out of your mouth are, "Stop! You are going to spoil it!"

And that could kill a child’s great career. For Imani Manyara, 21, a student of Information Technology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), his love for a

GOING PLACES: Imani Manyara’s love for technology has brought his skills to the attention of some Twitter executives. [Photo: Courtesy]

computer when he was seven charted out his career and now, it has thrust him into international limelight, bringing him to the attention of some Twitter executives.

Twitter is a San-Francisco online web-based social networking company.

"It all started when I was seven. My dad brought home an old desktop computer and I became curious. I developed a desire to understand how it worked," Imani says, adding, "I rushed home every day after school to play around with it. Soon I started fidgeting with every electronic in the house. By the time I was in Standard Seven, I literally woke up, drank, ate and thought about information technology."

Imani says his mother would get angry about his ‘interference’ with electronics in the house but his father told her to let him be and in the process, he explored more.

"She could not understand why I had such a fascination. I destroyed many electronics in the house as I pursued my curiosity," he says.

Explosive experiments

"At Form Two, I developed a software for chemical simulation. Through this software, one really didn’t have to go to the laboratory to conduct the tests," he explains, "all you needed was a computer and the experiment guideline. After feeding the guideline, you get the same results the laboratory would have given you."

In the laboratory, he had a fascination about explosive experiments. Since he’d not try these physically, he developed software to satisfy his curiosity.

The software is currently in use in some laboratories in the country as well as abroad. Interestingly, Imani says, he did not sell it but gladly shared his idea without expecting any commercial gain.

While at Kituro High School in Kabarnet and also St Columbus High School in Kitale, he developed other programmes that included a student management system and records, an idea he had toyed with when in Standard Seven.

After high school and while awaiting his results, Imani got the opportunity to explore all his imaginations.

"I had written down all the ideas I could get and after secondary school I had plenty of time to explore all of them."

When the results were out, Imani’s performance could not earn him a place in a public university and this, ironically, accorded him the opportunity to concentrate on his passion and develop his programmes.

Boosting passion

Says Imani: "But I had to join JKUAT after my parents persuaded me. I remember my father saying that I needed education to boost my passion."

"I registered for a certificate in IT because my C minus grade could not allow me to do a degree. At JKUAT, I have been able to enhance my skills mainly in software, web development and script writing."

It was in the last year of doing his certificate that lady luck started smiling at him.

He met Andrew Duncan, a film maker based in Los Angeles, who was in the country to shoot some movie and Imani did some computer generated graphics and sound effect in the movie scenes.

Since then, Imani, who is currently with the Standard Group’s online section has been doing many projects and is currently working on anti-piracy software that will help artistes earn their rightful dues.

"The software is able to detect the content identities and servers from which the music is being played. That way, artistes will easily track their music."

Imani is also doing a web-based anti-hack system, a software that will notify website owners about any attempts of hacking including time and location.

The maverick who has finished the certificate course and is now pursuing a diploma, is optimistic about his passion and the heights it will make him scale. His face glows at the mention of the twitter job offer.

"I have friends who have been monitoring what I do. Some have sponsored some of the software I developed. It happened that some Twitter workers were my friends and were impressed with what I have done so far," he reveals.

Imani says his family is happy he got the job with one of the fastest growing social media sites with around 300 million users as per last year.

"Mine indeed is a story of passion and persistence," says Imani. "I also want to advice my age mates not to give up. Having failed to secure a place within the public university did not dampen my spirit. I have proved that."

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