FOSS on gender agenda

By   |  July 2, 2004

Women\’sNet, a non-profit women\’s organisation based in Johannesburg, is hosting a SADC(Southern African Development Community) regional workshop to build awareness and use of free and open source software (FOSS) in the non-profit sector, and women\’s organisations specifically. The workshop will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 6 – 10 September 2004.

According to the organisers \”being able to use information technology strategically and effectively is an important source of empowerment and skills development for women

who often feel isolated and disempowered by rapidly advancing technological change. At the same time, there is growing awareness of the potential role of free and open source software (FOSS) in particular in harnessing ICTs for socio-economic development.\”

Natasha Primo of Women\’sNet says that with the exception of certain Internet-related tools, open source software is not yet widely used in Africa, and there have been no

initiatives aimed specifically at using open source to support women\’s organisations and networks. She says that in order to realise the potential of open source software organisations need to address a number of key issues including the need to raise awareness of open source tools at a policy, management and techncial level; provide easy access to open source tools; develop FOSS skills; ensure the ongoing development of support and training materials; and develop an understanding of the benefits and challenges of implementing open source solutions.

The workshop will run over five days and will be structured into two parallel tracks. Track one will target young women computer technicians – mainly technical support staff and system administrators – to build their capacity to support women\’s organisations in their assessments of technical hardware- and software-related needs and, where required, in migrating to and implementing FOSS solutions.

The programme for track one will include: the social and NGO context; customising, configuring and deploying GNU/Linux distributions; configuring clients for desktop and network applications; Open Source database and online publishing tools; and migrating to FOSS.

Track two of the workshop is aimed at decision-makers and end-users in women\’s organisations, with a view to building their ability to asses and choose between different technical (especially software) solutions. This track will also demonstrate the use of some FOSS software solutions that faciliate web publishing and information-sharing. The track two agenda will include a review of different desktop and networking applications; decision-making processes on technology options; developing inclusive ICT strategies; measuring the impact of ICT strategies on gender equality; and collaborative online publishing, using FOSS applications like ActionApps.

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