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Opening Africa
Jamais Cascio, 4 Dec 03

If you're in Cape Town, South Africa in mid-January, and have a spare $500 or so, you may want to check out the First African Conference on the Digital Commons. According to the site:

The conference will address the challenges and opportunities of the creation and use of free / open source software and open content and their development potential for Africa. The conference has both strategic and practical objectives, bringing together participants from government, education, business and civil society together with the developer community. The purpose of this conference is to:

  • Review progress on implementation of open source and open content in Africa
  • Create opportunities for peer-to-peer networking and learning among Africans participating in open source and open content initiatives
  • Lay the groundwork for collaborative creation of open source software in Africa
  • Expose Open Source companies and products to a variety of participants
  • Keynote speakers include Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, Dr. Sibusiso Sibisi, President & CEO of South Africa's Centre for Science, Innovation, and Research (CSIR), and Wendy Seltzer of the EFF.

    The conference is cosponsored by the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, an organization dedicated to encouraging the use of open source software as part of Africa's ongoing development process. The FOSSFA site includes a database of groups using open source tools in Africa. One example is a group called Guinix, which set up inexpensive radio email throughout Guinea for no more than $150/month total cost using old PCs loaded with Linux and FreeBSD.

    The open source/collaboration meme seems to be spreading like wildfire, both as a way for governments to bootstrap development and for NGOs large and small to take advantage of digital technologies.

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