Chair: Paul Keller
With contributions by: Dorkas Muthoni (Linux Chicks Africa, Kenya) – Chix Presence: A strategic partner in increasing the efficiency of FOSS for the benefit of society; Felipe Fonseca (MetaReciclagem, Brazil) – Metareciclagem: technology re-appropriation and collective innovations; Ednah Karamagi (Brosdi, Uganda); Bill Kagai (FOSSFA, Kenya); Nnenna Nwakanma (Africa Civil Society for the Information Society, Uganda); Enrique Chaparro (Fundacio Via Libre, Atgentina) – ICT are not (just) tools; Seppo Koskela (Applied Linux Institute, Helsinki) – Free Software, ICT4D and Finland: The Short Story; Sylvestre Quédraogo (executive President of Yam Puki Burkina Faso); Alexandre Freire (Digital Cultures/ Ministry of Culture, Brazil).
Pushed by a growing transnational coalition of NGOs and a few allies inside the multiliateral system, open source software has moved from margin to center in ICT4D visions of peer-to-peer networks and open knowledge initiatives. But while OSS and its apparent promide of an alternative non-proprietary concept of collaborative creation continues to have much counter-cultural cachet, its idiom can easily be used to support the ‘liberalization’ of telco markets and cuts in educational subsidies. What is the current status of OSS as idiom and infrastructural alternative within ICT4D?
Paul Keller opened with three questions/ issues:
The FOSS communities and ICT4D community don’t seem to have a common lexicon.
There is a strong mail domination in the Open Source Community.
Its flexibility should be seen as a form of complexity.
Bill Kagai referred to the problem of donors in the implementation of ICT in developing countries. There doesn’t seem to be a link between the products that are developed and how the country should be developing. There is a need for critical indicators to see the direction the country is taking. The indicators would show the importance of the use of ICT and reduction in other non profitable strategies. There is also a need to ensure the Open Source Voices, to get the right people in the right places. And Civil society needs to play an important role in the discussion.
Ednah Karagami is writing a book on knowledge sharing and participatory uses with a focus on sustainability and learning. Many people perceive people living in rural communities as people that can not get involved in all of this. Information is needed to close the gap between the literate and the illiterate – the urban and the rural. It is important that people in the rural communities get the information that they need. Open source is very important so the communities can appropriate the technology for their own means. E.g. for the moment a browser is being developed which is in the language of a specific village. This way they can access information on culture, environment, education… It is important people are taught to use the technology. It is wrong to enforce the technologies, this way they will not be sustainable. You need the study the culture and then embed the technologies in it. You need to study the prevailing systems and try to fit the technology into the systems. There is a need for patience and flexibility and you should try to start a dialogue with the community leaders.
Felipe Fonseca presented his work with the MetaReciclagem collective in Brazil. They don’t work as an NGO but as a collective network working in the domain of Open Source Software. In Brazil it is a strange situation because the government is actually very supportive of OSS and at a certain moment everybody was talking about it but nobody really used it. MetaReciclagem in the first place wanted to create a collective innovation and promote the demystification of the technology. The problem is that open source software becomes thet social product of city administrators. They don’t necessary do this because is it is good for the people but because it is ok with the government.
Dorkas Muthoni is the co-founder of LinuxChix Africa, a network which addresses gender issues in ICT in general and more specific in ICT4D.
-Agriculture is the backbone of most African states
-African women are the backbone of the rural subsistence economy, biggest segment in agriculture
-It is their productive work that sustains families and communities.
-When political clashes hit, they first destroy women as homemakers and economic managers.
-Thus, a women is reduced overnight from a productive being to a destitute one.
ICT is becoming a string force of transformation and Africa needs to embrace information technology as a way to avoid further marginalization. Software is a very important matter in this. Access to and use of ICT is a key to alleviating poverty in Africa. Open source is important because it gives the opportunity to keep it affordable and adjust it to local needs.
These ICTs are everything but gender-neutral. Gender is a major factor in Africa in determining who has access to, and who benefits from new information technologies. Women need to be involved in ICTs at all levels: decision making, development, utilisation,…: they may get quotas but a more sustainable approach is to work themselves into those levels. Man ought to be sensitized to be more friendly. Diversity is very important in this issue. A diverse mix of people results in many different views and approaches that are highly beneficial while trying to get to identify new approaches to problems. Gender is one axis to which we can measure diversity. However, gender diversity is extremely important in ICT as well.
Seppo Koskela talked about informal disorganisations in global challenges of development.
Alexandre Freire presented the project of Cultural Hotspots. He works for the ministry of government which tries to sustain these cultural hotpots that already exist but which can gain independence in the long run. The ministry of culture saw what these open source movements where doing and defined it as cultural practices. So they had the ‘luck’ that the ministry of culture would start supporting these kinds of activities. It is different from digital inclusion projects. They do not want to give them content, they’ve got content of their own.
Sylvestre Ouédraogo told what his experience is with open source in Burkina Faso. The train people to work on computers, in Open Source as well as in Microsoft programs. The government is not so keen in training people to use OSS how useful this might be. The reason is simply that Microsoft has promises a lot of money to the government so the decision is very simple. And the people that really are working on the basic level are not interested in the discussions on Free Software and OS etc.
Enrique Chaparro held a plea for the fact that development countries need to control the essentials of how to develop software.
Nnenna Nwakanma talked about the problem of language. There are over two thousand languages in Africa and you don’t have to recon on western companies to make software in all these languages. If Africa would have open source networks then they could create these languages themselves. This could also avoid the problem of big software companies to “block your password” and keep you from using the software. OSS gives also the possibility to customize the technology to local needs.