ict@innovation - 1200+ African experts and organizations join forces to create business and learning opportunities with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in Africa
ict@innovation in a nutshell
The ict@innovation programme supports the broad-based growth of African ICT industries by building capacities of African small and medium IT-enterprises. Today, a community of more than 1200 African & international experts and organizations exchange knowledge on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) as a key technology to drive innovation, add local value and create sustainable and affordable ICT-solutions in African economies. As part of a bold capacity-building move, more than 200 trainers have been qualified to teach the dynamics of open source as a business in Africa. Many of them are offering regular demand-oriented local IT-courses on key issues such as 'African Business Models in Open Source' or 'Low-cost Certification in Linux system Administration'. As of today, ict@innovation trainers have reached out to a recorded number of well over 600 IT-entrepreneurs, students and industry leaders.
Two community-built training manuals (on African FOSS Business Models and Linux System Administration) have been integrated in a number of curricula of African IT faculties, business schools and training institutes. The 600 pages of free high-quality learning material in English and French enjoys high demand with learners all over the continent, with at least 13.600 copies in use as of today. Currently in the teaching and network growth phase, ict@innovation features several vibrant communities such as the community of "African Linux Admin Trainers & Certification experts" (150 members, 620+ topical exchanges per year), the "FBT: African FOSS Business Models Trainers" (300 members, 600+ topical exchanges per year)", and the "Web Community of African FOSS Expertise" (1200+ members, searchable by country and area of FOSS expertise).
ict@innovation is a joint capacity development programme of FOSSFA (Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa) and the 'Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit' (GIZ), funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). The programme started in 2008 and is currently active in 15 countries in Sub-saharan Africa.
Implementation – Building learning communities around key themes of private sector promotion in African
IT In most cases, African IT entrepreneurs are in need of three core ingredients to run a successful IT-business: workable local business models, a reliable work force with trusted capacities and local innovation. For software-oriented IT companies, 'Free and Open Source Software' offers interesting solutions in all of these areas.
Therefore, ict@innovation focuses on supporting African ICT industries through three main actions:
2) fostering FOSS certification and
The following section gives some insights into how ict@innovation worked towards developing capacities by building communities around the three themes most in demand by the African IT-training sector.
The programme focused on building training expertise in the area of "African FOSS Business Models for IT-SMEs" by empowering a related regional community of practice. Therefore it started with a bold one-year-long community action: More than 80 African IT and business experts were tasked to co-develop a modular open-licenced training guide, that provides concrete information on how an African IT company can make business with Free and Open Source Software. The result is "Free your IT-Business in Africa!", the first locally rooted training manual on African FOSS Business models centered around more than 8 real-world case studies of African FOSS-companies. The 250 page-manual comprises modules on FOSS Business models, communication, training as well as general and specific FOSS business skills, all at advanced curricula and didactical standards. The free high-quality learning material in English and French enjoys high demand with learners all over the continent, with at least 5000 copies in use as of today. Licenced under creative commons attribution share-alike, the material is at the same designed for further modification, commercial use of African training entrepreneurs (e.g. selling printed copies) and free self-study (e.g. online).
The community was then enlarged to more than 110 trainers, mainly from African training institutions and universities through a series of five regional training-of-trainers courses all over Sub-Saharan Africa, which were implemented in a 4-week's online and 2 week's face-to-face schedule. After the course, the community of trainers was further nurtured via online tools such as website and mailinglist, with discussions centering around sustainable implementation of training courses in the home countries of the trainers. About 25 of these national trainings have been recorded by ict@innovation so far. An evaluation is underway to get a deeper insight into numbers and indications of further impact of the training. A preliminary analysis of participation shows, that the courses are reaching, in addition to IT-entrepreneurs, a high number of graduates and university students of IT-related courses wishing to enlarge their entrepreneurial skills. The continued vitality of the community around "African FOSS Business Models Trainers" has transformed to a sustained and growing online communication and knowledge exchange (600+ topical exchanges per year, mainly via a dedicated mailing list); growth of members to now 300, continued provision of local courses, face-to-face meetings of the community at international key events as well as a continued high interest in the training material.
ict@innovation was able to prove, that the offering of low-cost courses on Linux System Administration is a viable and emerging business opportunity for training institutions in Africa. At the same time it serves to help African IT enterprises involved in Open Source to improve the quality of their services offered as well as the level of trust of customers, as their staff gets certified e.g. as a ''Linux Professional Institute Level 1 certified Linux Systems Administrator". The programme stakeholders decided to promote internationally recognized quality standards in the field of FOSS by providing access to training in low-cost vendor-neutral Certification for Linux System Administration (using Linux Professional Institute's LPI certification scheme).
Again, the community based models for capacity development formed the core of programme implementation: joint development of open-licenced training material and implementing of regional two-weeks training-of-trainers courses, embedded in a four-week online phase. Overall, 69 trainers from 10 countries were supported to hold training through 3 regional training-of-trainer courses. As the course participants receive an internationally recognized certificate at the end of the training (if they pass the test), the training participants can easily see the value-for-money of the training fees, at which the trainers are offering their courses. So far about 30 national trainings have been offered by the ict@innovation trainers, reaching out to more than 300 participants – who can now prove their FOSS skills level to IT companies and their African clients. Further peer-to-peer learning of the trainers has been enabled through the community around "African Linux Admin Trainers & Certification experts", which grew to 150 members with 620+ topical exchanges per year.
In order to foster the environment for local innovation through FOSS, ict@innovation worked with universities and entrepreneurs from the African Virtual Open Initiatives and Resources (AVOIR) network. The joint goal was to build practical programming skills of students in higher semesters through a mentored internship programme. During the programme phase a proof of concept of such 'learning through coding' could be implemented, resulting in a first cadre of 20 mentors and a batch of 13 students trained and mentored in programming skills. However, due to long administrative ways and complexities around the management of the multitude of stakeholders, the MIP could not be fully developed in this lifecycle of ict@innovation.
Learning and business in IT is an international affair. Therefore, the networking and pan-African exchange of FOSS experts forms the core of ict@innovation. Through a series of regional networking events (like the pan-African FOSS conference Idlelo and more than eight cross-country training-of-trainer events), ict@innovation has assisted members of the African FOSS community to federate, grow and strategize. The offline interaction was then translated into the "ict@innovation Web Community of African FOSS Expertise" with now over 1200 members from 30 African countries. Through a social network function, ict@innovation enables IT experts and companies to promote their business and services through dedicated profiles and link up with each other. Via a search function, potential customers such as African enterprises or public sector institutions can look for a specific IT-service in a specific country and can contact the company via the website. This directory of ict@innovation has proven to be attractive, as is shown by 3 to 4 new members signing up every week.
For a more specialized peer-to-peer learning across countries, the two trainer communities continue to thrive on a self-sustaining basis, comprised of a growing number of "African Linux Admin Trainers & Certification experts" and "African FOSS Business Models trainers". Up to now, members have exchanged information on FOSS in more than 2500 messages so far.
Achievements in numbers
• Use of at about 14.120 copies of the two open training manuals on African FOSS Business Models and Linux System Administration (measured through proxy of total download of 13.000 copies, print runs of about 1120 as of March 2012, total of both manuals).
• Implementation of 8 regional training-of-trainers courses for 200 future trainers from 15 African countries
• 45 national follow-up trainings
• Growing communities of 450 experts and trainers (both "African Linux Admin Trainers & Certification experts" and "African FOSS Business Models Trainers")
• Regular exchange of information within communities through 2500+ messages in two mailing lists
• 200+ blog entries on the website
In 2012 the project will be evaluated to consolidate knowledge on outcomes, impact and further needs. As the funding phase for the project comes to an end in December 2012, the programme is now focussing on encouraging local teaching and growing the communities described above.
Judging from the expressed needs of numerous IT businesses, training institutions and stakeholders in Africa, a future focus of ict@innovation should also lie in
a) further broadening its regional scope,
b) fulfilling the high demand for more training-of-trainer programmes,
c) advancing the community empowerment and
d) catalyzing more local course offerings.
ict@innovation is therefore actively looking for partners interested in furthering such building of capacities in the African IT-sector.
Please contact FOSSFA or GIZ for partnership options.
An overview of all actions of the programme can be found at the timeline.