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Lessons from Idleo4

In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would ever get to sit down with Jon ¨maddog¨ Hall over breakfast and discuss open source. This happened during the just concluded Idelo4 conference in Accra, Ghana. I was totally blown away by his humility, taking into consideration that he is one of the foremost open source evangelists in the world. I got to discuss many issues with him and his presentations at the conference were extremely inspiring. In terms of the Idlelo being a time and place for the open source community to refresh and refuel, this one was way up there.

I therefore take this opportunity to thank the conference organizers - Nnenna and her entire team at the FOSSFA secretariat, AITI-KACE for their support of FOSSFA, inWent for their continued support of the African open source initiatives.

It was a great pleasure to meet many African open source business people, enthusiasts and scholars. The discussions were quite enlightening and the engagements very frank and honest. I was especially inspired by two presentations, one by ¨maddog¨ and another by Dr. Shahid Akhtar.

As expected, Microsoft had a presence at the conference. I say expected because this reminded me of their attempts to participate in our open source awards ceremony in Nairobi last year. While this is not in itself such a big deal, it gave ¨maddog¨ the opportunity to educate us on all the issues that make it hard for MS to be welcomed into FOSS activities. I wonder, as he said, whether MS would invite him to speak at their conferences. The issues that he tackled were a real eye opener for me and many other participants with regard to proprietary software companies, licensing, copyright laws and many more.

Dr Shahid Akhtar is an international consultant based in Canada. He has previously worked for the IDRC and I was happy to listen to him share experiences about how he started the International Open Source Network (IOSN) in South East Asia. This project, which was also supported by inWent and other donors, has contributed a lot to the development of FOSS capacity in South East Asia and it is one success story that we can emulate with the ict@innovation project for similar reasons in Africa.

But what inspired me most from him was his presentation about the presence of open source policies in Governments around the world. According to the open source policy (in Governments) survey conducted by the Centre for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), the rich nations are the ones that have made strides in the adoption of open source policies within their governments. The poor nations, especially in Africa, have not shown much effort in this direction, apart from a handful of them. This reminded me of a question that I ask many times; how is it that those rich nations whom we expect to be having a lot of money to spend are the ones that are leading in the use of open source, as opposed to the poor nations who are the ones that need to save more, but apparently do not see the benefit of FOSS? This is the question that baffles me the most.

Consider this also with what ¨maddog¨ said about cost savings. That the debate is not about the amount of money that you spend on any piece of software, but the value that you get from whatever amount you spend. That means that regardless of the many skewed TCO studies that have been done by MS and their cronies, at the end of the debate it is the value that one gets from their investment.

So, is it possible that the countries that have developed, and those that are newly developing, are the ones that are able to see new opportunities and embrace them moving forward? And that that is probably why our continent is lagging behind in development? This is debatable and I would appreciate comments on this.


 Hi people, Alex.

The challenges are mighty.  I am one of those that believe that Africa is not poor.  We are only making wrong choices.  Joseph Ki Zerbo of Burkina Faso talked about a past that was dumb, a present that is deaf, and ultimately a future that is blind!  Developed countries are the ones that get all the facts, analyse them and make informed choices.  The governments are serving the needs of the people.  Developing countries are those where individuals are the system and citizens do not ask government to account.  I have always maintained that there is a strong link between good governance  and the adoption of open source.  Once a country begins to take itself seriously, it begins to think open source.

 I am encouraged though, by the impact of the work we are all doing.  BBC captured a bit of this in their article.  It is a long way to go, but every step in the right direction is taking us closer.

Nnenna Nwakanma Director, Consultants on Information, Communications, Technology and Events for Development.

It is unfortunate, that though we are independent,we still are 'dependent' we still believe on someone else bringing us as as solution to our problems...this being the second Idlelo for me to attend, it was amazing!!!!....there are real Africans, making real dollars using OSS!! why are we still looked up,with proprietary???? I believe we have more than enough developers in Africa,alone, who can solve any issues arising from any OSS...this has remained the stagnation point "who is going to solve my,issue when it arises?" Secondly, I support Nnenna, yes we may be a a little bit behind,but be ye encouraged, we are getting there, with what I saw, we are on the right track.....take for example, during the WA-IGF in October 2009,we discussed about partnership and capacity building in IG for May 2010 we accomplished the first face, with a two full day @ the pre-conference of Idlelo to go through Internet Governance......issues partnering with Diplo, with a quorum of participants from WA & EA....if we (Africans) put our heads and minds together....I believe that, Yes We Can!! watch this space for IDLELO 5!!

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