Cameroonian whizz kid wins Google contest despite internet shutdown

Posted on February 13, 2017


Internet giant Google has recently crowned a host of champions for its prestigious Google Code-in competition, and one of the winners comes from a town that no longer has internet access.

The annual online competition attracts teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17 from all over the world. In the contest, entrants must complete a series of small and complex open source programming projects.

The company revealed that a total of 1,340 students from 62 different nations participated in this year’s contest, which has been running since 2010. It selected 34 winners from wide list of submissions. As part of the contest, a total of 6,418 tasks had been completed by entrants.

Nji Collins Gbah, a 17-year-old from Cameroon, was one of the grand prize winners on his debut and is the first African to win the contest. Furthermore, during the competition, which took place between November and January, the Cameroonian government cut off internet access to his hometown.

The student is currently in his final year of school in the Cameroonian city of Bamenda. He gained his knowledge of coding from books and online sources as well as picking things up as he goes along. He explained to the BBC that he completed a total of 20 tasks as part of the competition, which covered five different categories, with one of them taking a whole week to complete.

Just one day after Nji submitted his entry to the competition, the internet was cut off from his city due to political unrest. As it became apparent that the outage was more than temporary, he decided to travel to the nation’s capital, Yaoundé, which is 230 miles (370km) away from Bamenda and takes seven hours to reach by road, according to Google.

Nji decided to make this journey in order to stay on top of his game, and continue in his studies. Luckily, he had some internet access to discover that he was one of the winners of the competition. He hopes to finish school in Bamenda before going on to university to study Computer Science.

As a result of winning the contest, the teenager will be jetting off to California to the search giant’s headquarters in Silicon Valley to spend four days meeting the firm’s top engineering experts and learning about one of the world’s most successful companies, which was recently named as the most valuable brand in the world.

Operations Manager at Engage Web
Drawing from a broad pool of experience that ranges from university studies in English Language to his work as a medical receptionist in a busy GP practice, Alan fits right at home as Engage Web’s Operations Manager.
Alan Littler
  • […] difficult geopolitical obstacles that slow down its growth. One of our recent articles mentioned an internet shutdown in Cameroon, and this is not a unique […]

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