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Part III - Programme Planning

The third workshop part focused on concrete recommendations by the workshop participants for the ict@innovation FOSS Certification programme. The outcomes provide building blocks as an input to detailed programme planning and development.

Short-Term and Long-Term Perspectives

  • The ideal vision of FOSS certification in Africa, and what would be feasible in the short term, within the duration of the remaining 2 years of the ict@innovation programme, diverged.

Long-Term: Sustainable organizational Structures

  • In the long-term, a sustainable pan-African FOSS Certification body should be established. Participants looked towards FOSSFA to take up this role. Under the umbrella of this body, all training and certifying organizations from the different African countries act in a concerted approach, well represented by the body. This body endorses and promote a diversity of FOSS certifications, both international and African certifications. Market demands regulate which certifications are being offered.
  • African-organized and/or African-developed/improved certifications should make FOSS certification independant of developments abroad, and ensure that fees/resources remain on the continent and are spent to promote and support FOSS certification locally.
  • In the long-term, FOSS certifications should be embedded in government certification schemes.
  • The long-term solutions need to be guiding the short-term activities.

Short-Term: Training of Multipliers + Start with Structures

  • For the short-term, a solution that can make an impact within a 2-year time-frame, and be at the same time a step towards the long-term objective, should be sought.
  • Building the capacity of a large number of multipliers should be the focus and first step. Donor-subsidized trainings and exams in order to qualify and certify a large number of people who can then become multipliers could be a way to achieve certification at larger scales. Subsidized exams could be made available for FOSSFA members; sponsored graduates should be encouraged to give back to the network/programme.
  • The second step as part of the short-term activities should be to start establishing sustainable structures for FOSS certification in Africa, e.g. support the establishment of an African body responsible for concerted actions, or help build FOSSFA's capacity to become such a body.

Aspects of Sustainability

  • Subsidized certifications however are not a sustainable solution. Once the prices rise, it may be that business models no longer work. The identification of sustainable business models for FOSS training and certification in Africa is key, and needs to be part of the programme.
  • Solid institutional structures for FOSS certification and training on the African continent need to be worked towards and be established in the long-term.
  • The question is who has the capacity to sustain a pan-African FOSS training and certification programme? What is required for sustainability? Can FOSSFA perform that role? What would FOSSFA need in order to be able to perform that role?

Priority Skills Level: System Administration

  • It was agreed by the group that certification at the level of system / server / network administrators should be the priority focus of the ict@innovation programme. From the perspective of meeting demands and creating leverage for promoting FOSS skills in general, this skills/certification level was seen as key.
  • The LPI certification, as the only available international vendor-neutral certification at the system admin level, was selected as the certification to support in the short-term.
  • In the long-term, certification should be pursued for the entire LAMP stack, and adapted solutions should be sought.
  • The desktop level skills should also be addressed in the longer term. It was suggested that FOSSFA could develop an LPI 0 certification, and generate income through offering this basic certificate.

Building Organizational Structures: Pan-African FOSS Certification Body

  • Activities towards offering FOSS certification should be joint efforts of all stakeholders. They should be brought together under one pan-African umbrella.
  • The participants looked towards FOSSFA taking over that role, already being in the position of a pan-African FOSS association. Activities to strengthen / support FOSSFA to successfully fulfil this role were recommended. Those participants who were not yet part of FOSSFA, expressed their wishes to become FOSSFA members.
  • A possible model is for a first step could be for the African FOSS body to organize PR/marketing and quality management activities for the international certification. This would be a partial localization of certification processes. All training and certifying institutions could pay a certain fee to the central African FOSS body, which then organizes joint PR activities, as well as takes care of accrediting training institutions and other quality control measures. Accreditation fees of training + certifying organizations  could be spent for activities directly supporting FOSS certification in Africa, adapted and appropriate for African contexts. Only the African FOSS body would be accredited directly to LPI.
  • In a step further (after the first-phase focus on LPI), the African FOSS body should negotiate certification deals with a variety of international and regional certifications. Representing a large number of training and certifying organizations allows for economies of scale and a stronger negotiating position. The body should approve reputable international certifications and promote them Africa.
  • In doing so, it should encourage diversity and let the market establish dynamically which are useful and appropriate certifications. The body should not regulate and pre-determine. It should work with a variety of strategic partners.
  • An own African certifying body would reduce dependence on foreign structures, that cannot be controlled locally and draw away resources. Taking up the challenge to develop an independent certification process, and eventually a certification, would be a step towards more reliability and sustainability.

Training and Certification Business Models

  • FOSS training and certifications should be made more affordable through innovation on the business model.
  • Making open courseware training materials available was one suggestion on how to reduce costs in the overall training + certification package.
  • There should be entrepreneurial scope in the programme to come up with innovative ideas for business models.
  • Other income generation streams should be considered like merchandise of certifications.
  • Research on the peculiarities of each country should be conducted in that regard.
  • As cost is also a function of value, good and locally appropriate PR and quality management may contribute to financially sustainable pricing of training and certifications.

Close Collaboration with Industry and other Stakeholders

  • In order to achieve relevance, we should closely collaborate with industry. The demand for skills (and relevant trainings and certification) should ideally be created by the industry, the certification should meet that demand. Collaboration with the different FOSS vendors, large potential ICT clients and employers (such as ISP companies e.g.) should be sought in the planning stage of the programme, in order to obtain input and buy in. Eventually what we want to achieve, is our certificates asked for in job descriptions and tenders.
  • Collaboration with government as a client, and as support in advocacy, outreach, and credibility should be sought as well. Particularly bodies which can serve as catalysts should be brought on board, such as the Rwanda IT Authority e.g. Government ministries responsible for certification (probably education or communication departments) should be involved. In the long-term, FOSS certifications should also become part of government certification frameworks. Also, education departments can be partners for advocacy. Particularly staff members dealing with SME relations there should be identified. Departments of trade and industry and chambers of commerce should be involved in needs assessment and advocacy. They may add credibility, support outreach, provide funds, and may be good government connections.
  • We should involve Linux user groups and existing FOSS communities.
  • University institutes of continuing education should be contacted, many of which have SME databases with potential training participants.

Offering different Training Options  

  • There should be different options for the individual to acquire skills for a certification. It should be up to the preferences, budget and life situation of the students which learning modalities they want to choose.
  • A reference website provides all training materials, openly licensed for self-study. After registration, these materials are available free of charge.
  • An online training system offers further e-Learning modules. At a fee, students can be in contact with an online mentor. These e-Learning courses are part of a blended learning course, preparing the on-site phase.
  • On-site, practical training courses at the training center should be an important part of the blended learning courses. An IT-trouble-shooting mindset needs to be developed in hands-on practical training. There should be an entry test for full training courses. It takes about 2 months to train e.g. for an LPI certificate (online + on-site combined). Passing the course should not be possible with a mere certificate of attendance, but there needs to be evidence of hands-on practical and problem-solving skills acquired during the course.

Well equipped Training Centers

  • Training centers can be accredited or not. If they are accredited they benefit from joint marketing efforts (e.g. through paying a fee to the African accrediting body which then organizes PR activities.
  • Training centers need to be well equipped in order to offer quality practical hands-on training. There should be some budget to provide support in upgrading training centers.

Train-the-Trainer Courses

  • There could be a 4 – 6 weeks mentored online phase, and a 2 weeks on-site phase.
  • Learning to train, pedagogical skills should be part of the training.
  • A pre-assessment of trainers before the training of trainers was suggested.
  • Participants should already be in the training business, and have some training experience.

Openly licensed and online Training Materials

  • Compiling and developing open courseware materials should be a key activity.
  • Licensing issues with available materials need to be solved in that context. Lots of materials are already available online and need to be checked for quality and compiled.

Exam Process

  • An online exam should be made available.
  • One idea is to design an alternative exam, which would better guarantee quality, and promote practical and hands-on skills. If such an exam was developed, organized, promoted and delivered locally, the majority of generated revenues could remain on the continent. The exam process and business model would be independant of foreign developments. Eventually the improved exam process could be an African contribution at the international level.

Certification Contents and Standards

  • We may make use of what already exists.
  • Also, we should develop standards for the certification. In developing the standards, we should forge a relationship with the Linux Foundation from an African perspective, as well as work with national qualification frameworks.

PR and Marketing

  • PR should be part of the programme and a concerted effort, possibly through the African FOSS body. Creating a FOSS brand is important. Joint press releases, trade fair appearances etc. could be organized.
  • National FOSSFA chapters will be important for national PR activities.

Outside Expertise and Resources

  • We should learn from past mistakes with promoting FOSS certification in Africa. Some evaluation papers were mentioned that we should look into.
  • It was mentioned that several donors have talked to FOSSFA that they would be interested in supporting FOSS certification in Africa. Coordination and cooperation should be sought here.