Africa Source II - Free and Open Source Software for Local Communities

Posted in 2006

Kalangala, Uganda - Jan 08-Jan 15, 2006

What was Africa Source II?

Africa Source II was an eight day hands-on workshop aimed at building the technical skills of those working with and within NGOs on the continent. It took place in one of the most beautiful parts of the Kalangala Island on Victoria Lake during the beginning of January 2006.

Africa Source II focussed on how technology, in particular Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) can be integrated into the project work of NGO's. Over a hundred thirty NGO Support Professionals and NGO Staff working at the local level across the region were present at this meeting. Together with a handful of field leaders from Africa, Europe, North America and Asia, they explored how technology can best serve the non-profit sector in Africa both in terms of access and content.

Who was there?
Participants with a range of experience were learning from one another about how technology can help make their NGO's more efficient, build capacity and facilitate their project work. They were given an opportunity to develop their understanding of FOSS, including exploring the challenges and the future potential of FOSS adoption in Africa. All participants had a history of work with service and advocacy NGOs, educational organisations, NGO resource centres, community centres and health information organisations.

We welcomed applications from those working in Africa who were:

  •     campaigners, practitioners or project managers working within non-profits and interested in technology
  •     system administrators within NGOs, or acting as technical support to non-profits or community centres
  •     trainers and consultants to the non-profit sector, or working in resource centres who are intersted in technology

What happened there?

There was a range of sessions for participants to take part in, they include:

  •     How to help NGO's plan and implement FOSS applications in order to increase their capacity
  •     How to use FOSS applications to handle information, publish content using citizen's media tools and engage supporters
  •     How FOSS can increase accessibility through localisation, translation into local language and dialects

During these sessions participants got an opportunity to learn from peers about how technology has impacted their work through case studies and skill shares. The workshops was lead by a range of facilitators from the region with strong experience in deploying free and open source solutions and of working in the non-profit sector, as well as a number of experienced NGO practitioners. They were joined by a handful of international field leaders from specific fields, such as community radio, alternative access solutions and the use of mobile phones for NGO work.

The camp style focusses on learning by doing, rather than by listening. We aim for a "workshop vibe" as opposed to a "conference vibe"; participants were hosted at an Island location, with shared housing. The agenda of the event was very hands-on and intensive, with an emphasis on active participation over passive learning. Like other source events, Africa Source II was intentionally designed to foster community building, this creates an atmosphere conducive to learning, but more importantly is essential if longer term relationships are to be built.

Building on the previous Africa Source events (Namibia, March 2004), which brought together African FOSS developers working in the social sector, Africa Source II worked in contrast at a different level, concentrating on bringing together those working with NGOs and technology at the practitioner and intermediary level. Participants had experience working with computers and the internet and a project or initiative planned in the future incorporating technology for the non-profit sector. They did not, however, had to be technical experts.

Besides new ideas, skills and contacts that participants have gained, they have also left the workshop equipped with an event specific version of NGO-in-a-box, a toolkit of FOSS and materials specific to the NGO sector.
Who did organise Africa Source II?

The Association for Progressive Communication APC (regional network), Fantsuam Foundation (Nigeria), Schoolnet Africa (regional network), (South Africa), WOUGNET (Uganda), Creative Commons South Africa, Aspiration (US) and The Tactical Technology Collective (the Netherlands) have collaborated to organise the content of the workshop and to build strong relationships between the participants. The project partners were committed to examining the challenges of implementing FOSS in the African context, stretching its potential to fit the needs on the ground, and building local capacities to realise this. Our local partners and hosts were the East African Center for Open Source (EACOSS), Linux Solutions and WOUGNET.

Previous source events have taken place in Croatia - September 2003, Namibia - March 2004, India - February 2005, and Tajikistan October 2005.

In 2006 an event will be held in the Middle East.