OSCON Lessons for Africa

The Open Source Convention of 2008 has closed its doors. It might not have been right to count our gains and losses during the conference, but it is time and timely, to do so.

The first of all lessons was the increasing number of attendance from Africa. The word increasing may look absurd, because it does not mean from 20 to 50 or even from 10 to 25, but at least it means from 3 to 8.

The second was the quality of participation. Mark Shuttleworth gave a key note and was in two other panels. Derek Keat, though hitting his first OSCON runs, was instrumental in the education panel. He also made the great leap in actually showcasing AVOIR – an initiative from Africa. Nnenna Nwakanma stepped in for Africa during the all-important Open Source/Open World Panel organized by the Open Source Initiative. At the Expo Center, Chisimba was available for the hundreds of OSCONers to get a first hand experience of innovation made-in-Africa.

The third was the overwhelming percentage of the Republic of South Africa in Africa’s participation. Yes, ceci explique cela. The analysis of the why’s and wherefores may be a good thing for you to blog about. There are other other lessons. Let us not crowd it.

One thing, though, comes out clear, hearing FOSS African voices at international levels CANNOT be the sole duty of the Republic of South Africa. We all need to move beyond this. The second is that the OSI – Open Source Initiative was the contributor to the entire participation of the one female person from Africa. Partly because the OSI believe in this global engagement of all open source actors, actresses (please forgive me) and advocates in the global OS discourse, and partly because of her own personal engagement and proven leadership in the FOSS arena. On the African continent, the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa – FOSSFA, has this mandate too. To make African FOSS voices, actions and initiatives to be seen, heard, known, used and promoted. Open Source not-for-profit organisations like OSI and FOSSFA will be healthier if enough support is given them to continue their engagement at all levels. This is critical to the success of Open Source itself, as a movement of global community engagement.