LinuxChix Africa manages to shatter two stereotypes at the same time: the idea that women aren't interested in free/open source software development; and the idea that women in Africa are bound to traditional cultural roles. Founded in late 2004 by Anna Badimo, a computer science graduate student in South Africa, and Dorcas Muthoni of the Kenya Education Network, LinuxChix Africa seeks to build Linux skills among African women, as well as to support more generally the use of free/open source applications and systems across Africa. Like most Linux and F/OSS communities, much of their work entails professional software development and public advocacy of open source, but LinuxChix Africa adds a unique twist: they focus their outreach on encouraging young women to pursue careers in computing.
LinuxChix Africa was a key participant in the recent Africa Source II conference, which (as we noted at the time) included a particular emphasis on getting more women involved in the use of open computing technologies for economic development. LinuxChix Africa participants place a high value on mentoring and visibility as role models; as they put it, "If they [African women] can see their future, they can realize their future."
The challenges of Africa are well documented, with HIV/AIDS representing the most significant development challenge of our times. Community development can no longer be viewed in isolation but require multi-tiered, cross-sectoral, and well-coordinated approaches that are aligned to Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Without ICT, communities get left behind and are unable to take advantage of the social and economic benefits that come with ICT. This integration of ICT into social development programmes is often referred to as eDevelopment, eHealth and eLearning and represent models of ICT intervention in development, health and education respectively.
LinuxChix Africa isn't the only women-oriented technology group active on the continent. APC-Africa-Women, an arm of the Association for Progressive Communications, convened the WENT Africa conference (Women's Electronic Networking Training) in December of 2005, focusing on the development of Linux and F/OSS skills. APC-Africa-Women has a lengthy list of resources discussing strategies for increasing the participation and importance of women in information and communication technology industries in Africa and worldwide.
Wow! That's really an awesome program!
Well done Chix. There is nothing as powerful as collaborating and sharing information - especially in this filed of ICT's that is dynamic. The mentoring of the young women is to me the most important because they are the future.