Jonathan Dotse: Virtual reality in Accra

Jonathan Dotse is a social entrepreneur, technology evangelist, and science-fiction writer living in Accra, Ghana. He also tinkers in virtual reality.

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Jonathan Dotse is a Ghanaian science-fiction writer and Afrofuturist. As well as creating the first ever African VR experience, Dotse also runs the Afro Cyber Punk blog where he discusses the future of Africa and how new technologies will affect the continent. 

“We come from a background where art is not appreciated as much as in the Western world. Being an African creative - there is a lot of opportunity but we also have to deal with a lot of obstacles. But at the same time, I think we have a really interesting and unique perspective to offer the world. And that for me is really exciting,” says Dotse. 

When Dotse discovered Google Cardboard, he realised that the technology required to view VR had become relatively cheap and more accessible much faster than the technology needed to create it. He started trying to create his own headsets. 

I’ve always been a tinkerer, I love to design and develop gadgets.

In August 2015, Dotse created a short 360-degree film called Pandora with a virtual reality studio he founded in Accra called NubianVR. The project was intended to promote Ghana as a place where technology was created as well as consumed. 

Pandora also serves as a metaphor for virtual reality in Accra. Based on the Greek myth with the same name, the film asks people to think critically about what the power of virtual reality in Africa could be, and what responsibilities the creators of it have. 

For Dotse, virtual reality doesn’t have to be restricted to a computer generated experience. It can be any type of immersive, imagined world. His first proper virtual reality experience, he says, came through the pages of an absorbing book. 

“This is what actually motivated me to go into writing because i have always thought of writing as a form of virtual reality, as a way I can create worlds - or at least transcribe the worlds I have imagined, and share them with other people.”