African hackers gather in Namibia

By   |  March 16, 2004

Open source developers from across the African continent (and some from further afield) descended on the small Namibian town of Okahanja this week to further their own skills as well as promote the use of free and open source software across Africa.

The five day developer workshop is being organised Amsterdam-based NGO Tactical Technology Collective and includes more than 60 developers from more than 25 countries, including Benin, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zimbabwe.

Key items on the agenda for the wokshop include the development of OSS developers neworks to facilitate the greater co-operation across the continen. Some delegates even called for the creation of an \”African Silicon Valley\”. Other items on the agenda include the role FOSS (free and open source software) can play in improving education and aiding NGOs.

But the heart of the workshop – and the reason most of the delegates have travelled here – is the opportunity to share experiences and skills. Everything from PHP, Zope and Pyhon, to working with the Linux kernel, to building GTK applications. Training sessions offered in day one and two include translating open source applications, python, building content management systems and security fundamentals.

Key issues already emerging from the conference include the need to improve he communication of NGO and educational needs to developer commuinities. NGo delegates highlighted that they often require role-specific applications but are unaware are who to approcach to develop the needed tools.

Other delegates highlighted the need for open source advocates to better explain the benefits of open source software to end user organisations. In one workshop it was highlighted that many organisations do not have the time to \”experiment\” with open source software and require stable and familiar software. Often this leads them to use proprietary software because they familiar with the tools. and sill feel support and usability are issues of concern.

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