The Digital Agency for International Development

Developing for Development

By Chris Wilson on 08 January 2015

Who am I?

I've been a developer at Aptivate for 10 years, and volunteered part-time in my evenings and weekends for 3 years before that, while it was starting up as a company. I'm also one of the directors and the 3rd employee. So I've seen a lot in my time here.

What do I do?

I'm mainly a web developer, but I've also done database administration, desktop applications, training, network and systems administration, meeting facilitation, consultancy and systems integration.

In 2010 we switched our main language and framework to Django and Python, and I've been mainly doing front-end and back-end development in Django, with some PHP and JavaScript, since then.

Before that, we developed mainly Java J2EE web applications such as Loband, or in PHP where projects required it.


I knew HTML, SQL and Perl before I started here, but I learned a lot while working here:

I got to practise and improve my French on trips to Geneva for WHO HINARI, and learned Italian while working for WFP in Rome.

International Development

From the projects I worked on, I learned about international development:

I formulated some ideas about development, personal and international. And I released and contributed to Open Source projects.

Who I've worked with

I've been involved in projects by government, Western NGOs, local NGOs, collaborations, universities, departments of the UN, social enterprises and for-profit companies. I've found it exciting, rewarding, frustrating and educating. I've had many opportunities to develop myself and my skills, through challenging new working environments, living and working abroad, meeting many people, being inspired and hopefully inspiring others.

I highly value and respect my colleagues here at Aptivate. I couldn't wish for more friendly, helpful, inspiring and beautiful people to work with. We have lunch together every day, which surprises all our visitors, but they all seem to like it and join in, and hopefully this culture will spread. It's one of the greatest things about Aptivate that we never feel alone, we're always sharing ideas and helping each other .


I do have some regrets. I wish we could do more advanced, technically complex projects. I wish we could do longer projects and get to know the stakeholders and users better. I wish we could work onsite with our clients and in the field more often.

I wish we could outsource more software development work to teams in Africa that could support and maintain it after we have to move on, build their own businesses and start new Aptivates everywhere. I wish we could have time and permission to spread more of the knowledge that we've gained and the code we've written.

I wish that nonprofits could pay salaries that match the commercial sector. And I wish that that wasn't an issue for me and that I could stay.


But since I'm not staying, I wish Aptivate the very best in happiness and success, and if you are a developer, project manager or interested in marketing, I hope you will think about joining Aptivate. I think you'll enjoy it. I certainly have.

I donated to Django