DevFest 2020: A recap of the first virtual Developer's festival in Nigeria

In line with covid-19 restrictions and health regulations, this year's edition of Devfest was hosted online — a deviation from the norm.

DevFest 2020: A recap of the first virtual Developer's festival in Nigeria

Backed by Google and a host of sponsors, GDG Lagos showed why it is home to the largest community of developers in Nigeria.

One of the many paradigms the covid-19 pandemic has challenged is how we think about events. Year after year, developers have looked forward to DevFest as an opportunity to learn from, and connect with, others in the field. The annual festival always lives up to its billing as a melting pot for everyone in the developers' community.

In 2019, DevFest hosted a record-breaking number of attendees, including the crème de la crème of Nigeria's tech ecosystem, under one roof. However, this year's event was always going to be different.

Read: Nigeria's biggest developers's festival goes virtual for 2020

This year's DevFest was initially scheduled to hold on the October 17, 2020. However, in solidarity with the EndSARS protests that swept the country in early October, GDG Lagos,  postponed the event indefinitely. The announcement of the November 21st as the new date for DevFest Lagos 2020 was met with much excitement.

In line with covid-19 restrictions and health regulations, this year's edition of Devfest was hosted online — a deviation from the norm. Changing the event's format meant some of the physical essence was lost, most notably, the famous refreshment - Jollof rice and Chicken.

The event was the brainchild of  all the Google Developer Group chapters located in Lagos. That list includes GDG Ajah, GDG Lagos, GDG Ojo-Festac, GDG Ikorodu, GDG Android Lagos, GDG Cloud Lagos and Flutter Lagos.

The organising team had nine members, eight of whom were also part of the organizing team for DevFest 2019. They are Femi Taiwo, Gbolahan Alli, Judith Nwokike, Kelvin Umechukwu, Emmanuel Bakare, Chizoba Ogbonna, Jesudetan Onasanya, Moyin Adeyemi, and Olalekan Kolapo. Olalekan Kolapo was the new addition to the team for 2020.

Where was DevFest Lagos 2020 hosted?

The event was hosted on Bevy, Google's choice platform for hosting DevFest events for 2020. Bevy is a software company that powers virtual conferences and events for organizations. Some of Bevy's other clients include Twitter, Snowflake, Slack, Atlassian, and MongoDB.

The platform featured a simple, easy-to-use layout with a left-hand bar containing the schedule for the day. From the left-hand bar, attendees could easily switch between sessions. The upper ribbon had five tab options:

  • Lobby: this functioned similar to a waiting room for attendees
  • Agenda: gave attendees access to the agenda for the day from where they could add sessions to their own agenda.
  • Stage: This tab was used during the QnA sessions between attendees and speakers.
  • Networking: when on this tab, attendees could network with one another via video, audio or text.
  • Booths: here, attendees could meet with the event sponsors and check out their products.

Who were the sponsors?

OPay was the headline sponsor for the 2020 DevFest Lagos as opposed to last year that had Flutterwave headlining the event. The fintech company also sponsored a 48 hour hackathon themed "Powering SME Payments" to mark the event. The hackathon started on November 21 and is scheduled to end on November 23rd. It marks the first time OPay has shared its API with members of the public. The winner of the hackathon,  will win a Google Pixel 4 Smartphone, with other prizes up for grabs for participants.

Other event sponsors include:

How the event went down

Even though this year's DevFest wasn't physical, the Benjamindada team was live at the event covering it with commentary for those who couldn't make it.

The event started at 11am prompt with an opening address from Femi Taiwo, one of DevFest's co-organizers and the CTO of  INITS LTD. In his address, Femi paid respect to the events that have shaped 2020 including the covid-19 pandemic, George Floyd's murder, the BLM movement in the US against police brutality, EndSARs in Nigeria and the death of Obi-Enadhuze Oke —  one of Nigeria's gifted designers who unfortunately died during the violence that followed the Lekki massacre.

The keynote speech was given by Jason Titus, VP of Engineering  at Google and featured a moving story from Uganda developers are using machine learning to help farmers tackle crop diseases. Several high-profile devs from Google took turns to explain how different tools in Google's suite could be combined to solve problems like the ones the Ugandan developers did.

After the keynote address, the OPay's VP of Products and Engineering OPay, Dotun Adekunle, anchored a 30-minute session on Natural Language Processing. He gave some insight into how Opay scales its services to become the largest non-bank player on NIBSS Instant Payments (NIP).

According to Dotun, Opay will be making more of their technology open to the public in the near future in a bid to foster collaboration and innovation in the developer community. After Dotun's session, the attendees broke out into several concurrent sessions that dealt with varying issues of interest for developers.

The sessions were split into three batches with a 3-4-3 arrangement allowing attendees which sessions they wanted to be part of in each batch. Attendees could also hop around the sessions if they wanted to get a slice of each person's presentation.

Remarkably, this year's DevFest was a huge leap in terms of inclusivity. Of the ten speakers, five were female compared to last year, where only one female speaker anchored a session. The speakers were also less known faces as the organizers sought to put the spotlight on local talents.

The sessions covered the following topics:

Some of the sessions have been uploaded on YouTube and are linked above. To get notified when the others are uploaded, you can subscribe to the GDG Lagos YouTube page.

After the sessions ended, attendees were afforded the chance to ask the facilitators questions using the Questions tab on the platform. There was also a chance for people to network in the comment section, where they shared their thoughts and profiles.

Additional thoughts

The number of attendees for this year's DevFest was significantly lower than in previous years and for obvious reasons. One of the primary allure of DevFest is its potential for bringing devs together in the same physical space.

Although the virtual event promised a lot and was well-executed, it couldn't generate the buzz people get knowing they will be in the same physical space as some of their mentors.

In summary, it's too early to call the death of physical meetings, especially for events like DevFest, whose core appeal is networking. Once things return to normal, we can confidently expect DevFest to return to its physical format with the same quality of execution.

If you attended DevFest Lagos 2020, you can claim your badge here

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