Summer Source

Posted in 2003

Organised by Tactical Tech and the Multimedia Institute Croatia, Summer Source 2003, was an eight day gathering of individuals and organisations working to implement Free and Open Source Software (F/OSS) solutions for civil society organisations. The event, with over 80 participants and facilitators from 34 countries, took place from August 29th - September 6th, 2003. All situated on the beautiful island of Vis, three hours off the Dalmatian coast of Croatia.

Described as a "Software Camp for NGOs" the aim was to breakdown the divide between the aspirations of software developers and the actual needs of NGO implementers. A high priority of the camp was to create a relaxed and cooperative learning experience with the underlying premiss that "everyone is an expert and knows something (to teach), no one knows everything." The sessions were taught through a mixture of lectures with discussions, large- and small-scale workshops, skillshare sessions, discussions and most importantly hands-on practical experience.

Given the wide variety of background experience, languages and skills of participants at the camp an incredibly diverse range of topics were covered. Starting from the basic concepts and philosophy of F/OSS and its potential application to civil-society organisations. The camp also covered installation of F/OSS software, setting up networks, use of F/OSS applications (i.e. office, desktop managers, explanation of various Linux distributions), On line Publishing & CMS, localisation of software, security and data encryption for NGOs, streaming video/ audio, the eRider model, recycled machines, case reports and best practice, funding models and issues of sustainability. This was also complimented by discussions and debates regarding intellectual property rights and legal issues, the case for F/OSS versus proprietary software, as well as subversive technology and system hacking. There was also an inspiring ‘event within the event’ when, with the help of the Indymedia facilitators, a live audio streaming session was hooked up between camp participants and activists gathering to demonstrate against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Cancun, Mexico.

The ambitious agenda - identified and designed by the organisers, facilitators and participants - was implemented by an equally varied and talented group of facilitators that represented Indymedia, Debian-NP, Digital Bridges, Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility,, GeekCorps, Martus, StrawberryNet Foundation, Greenpeace VPN, InterSpace Media Art Media Center, Metro Olografix, net.activism, Benetech, and Free Software Foundation.

Although the learning was intensive there was also plenty of time to relax. The venue itself was an abandoned ex-Yugoslavian army barracks, part of which had been reopened as simple dormitories, three media/ computer rooms, an office and large communal canteen: where the majority of participants and facilitators stayed, helping create a feeling of community. On the grounds there was also (under the palm trees) an outdoor bar, DJ and VJ area complete with dancefloor, as well as a more relaxed ‘bazaar’ chill-out area that hosted films, discussions and an open-mic night. At short notice, the latter showcased Tajik dancing, Ella Fitzgerald scat singing, Belorussian folk songs, bluegrass, a Kosova-Canadian duo, and acapello Polish punk.

There was also the opportunity to enjoy the quite town of Vis, as well as a daytrip to nearby Komiza. Or cool down in the crystal clear Mediterranean waters - which provided the opportunity for a particularly proud group of Mongolians to learn to swim.

Since the event Tactical Tech, along with colleagues and partners from Summer Source have been working on several follow up projects. These include a training curricula, a 'getting started with NGOs' guide, and version 2 of NGO-in-a-box. In March 2004, Tactical Tech in partnership with AllAfrica and Schoolnet Namibia will host Africa Source and plans are underway for a similar event in Asia later on this year. The Summer Source community lives on through the mailing list which continues to generate discussion, exchange and ideas amongst the participants and facilitators.

Also read this blog post on Indymedia.