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Africa Source is the name for a series of events, two of which have been held so far, in 2004 and 2006, at Namibia and Uganda respectively. These are held to promote the use of Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS) among non-profit and non-governmental organisations. Africa Source is part of the wider "Source camps" organised by and its partners, and is also linked to the Asia Source and other parallel events held elsewhere in the "developing" world.

Venue, agenda for Africa Source 2Edit

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Africa Source 2 was organised in the first fortnight of January 2006 in Kalangala, an island on Lake Victoria, in Uganda. Organisers announced that the Africa Source II agenda was to be developed for the following primary target audiences:
  • NGO (non-government organisation) IT practitioners working with educational institutions, resource and community centres, rights based NGOs and health information organisations
  • IT developers, advocates and implementors
  • People interested in the localization of software


Main themes for the event were:

  • migration and adoption
  • alternative access, education and resource centres;
  • information handling and advocacy;
  • localisation

Issues for debate at Africa Source 2Edit

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During the actual event, many issues came up for debate at the Africa Source 2, a camp meant to make non-profit campaigners think about software issues.

Two issues divided campers at Africa Source 2 like no other. Perhaps these were meant to. One was: FLOSS is still too complicated for non-profit organisations and schools to use. The other: It's more critical to translate FLOSS into African languages, compared to training to use existing (FLOSS) software". Issues like these split public opinion at Africa Source 2 along the spectogram of various possible positions.

From New Delhi, Arun Mehta argued that FLOSS still needed to be much more accessible to the disabled. Others saw it differently: "What have NGOs done to make it more user-friendly? This is not software you buy; this is software you create," said one voice.

Derick Odembo of Kenya and Mozambique agreed that it was still difficult to migrate. Dwayne from South Africa claimed his grandmother had learnt to use Firefox (the web browser) and she was a hundred years old!

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A web developer was concerned what tool he could use to replace Macromedia Flash. Someone else argued that every time FLOSS is used, it's one more crucial vote in its favour.

Rudi from South Africa argued strongly in favour of those who "taught a man to fish, rather than just gave him a fish". He said he's seen more people on the FLOSS side teach others and work towards a solution than those who just complain about usability.

Ivar Mugabi of Uganda cautioned against "doing nothing but training guys when they don't understand the stuff". Deborah Aknwande, also of Uganda, made her point. Somebody else laughed, "Hey, this is everybody-understands-English stuff," said someone on the side which stressed on the importance of translation and localisation of software.

Dirk Slater, who worked as an eRider for seven years stressed the 70:20:10 principle for NGOs and non-profits. He called this a "very important formula". And, he stressed 10% of resources needed to go to hardware, 20% to software, and 70% needed to go to training!

Charles Loku of Uganda called for a more detailed form of localisation. Why not call it M'bata (Swahili for "duck") rather than Mandrake, he asked.

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Alaa of Egypt stressed that language questions are "very complicated", and connected with literacy and politics. "There is much more to localisation than just translation... Translation is good, but much more is needed. We need more

users and more techies. We the Arabs have to solve our own (Arab) localisation issues. If we have training and more users, we would be better able to handle this," he suggested.

Other participants felt that people stressing localisation generally came from larger tribes, and were people who used well documented languages. What happened to smaller language groups, he asked? And thus the debate raged.... only to show that FLOSS has its many shades of grey.

Options for participantsEdit

Africa Source II offered participants a possibility of taking one of three possible "tracks": either look to 'migration for NGOs', 'migration for education' or the 'information management' track.

While the first was aimed to help shift non-profits over to Free/Libre and Open Source Software (FOSS or FLOSS), the second was aimed at making the same possible for those working in the field of education. There was another track to help participants focus on the 'soft' skills, and the 'information' part of the IT world, that often gets overlooked and sidetracked.


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In the information track, participants voiced a range of needs. Some asked for details about online tools for publishing. Others wanted the low-down on building and managing community portals. There also was a request for inputs on multimedia authoring and publishing (in both video and audio). Participants also wanted to know how to build a news website.

After breaking in groups and listing their expectations, it was found that some wanted ideas on how to network and collaborate with other organisations. Someone had a query: could they find out how and if blogs could be useful to Africa.

Other issues came up too: Could blogs be used to create communities? Is there some way of better understanding this entire phenomenon of social software (including wikis, blogs, social networking, social bookmarking)? Can FLOSS offer tools for donor-management and member-management? Is there some replacement for web-design tools and Flash animation? Is it possible to extend skills by undertaking online mentoring for non-profits via the Net and encourage them to get their information out....

Africa Source, the first campEdit

Africa Source's first camp was held from March 15 to 19, 2004 at Okahandja, Namibia. According to the website focused on this event, some 60 participants "from all across Africa met for discussion, peer learning and skillshare". This event's focus was on "the practical challenges of realising F/OSS [Free/Libre and Open Source Software] in the African context, the aim was to build cooperation between Africa's most active F/OSS individuals and projects in the longer term."

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It brought together developers "who are often working in isolation" and gave them a chance to meet with non-profit campaigners. Through "practical skill-share sessions", a range of issues were discussed, from localising of GNU/Linux distributions (or "distros") to setting up of wireless networks, work on content management systems, and designing or managing large databases.

Africa Source's first camp was organised by Tactical Tech, AllAfrica and SchoolNet Namibia. It was supported by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), OSI Budapest, USAID and O'Reilly, according to its organisers.

External linksEdit


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