Down to the wire on day 5 of POSSE SA, and time for reflection. Dinner with everyone yesterday evening was very productive – so many anecdotes on Open Source and its personalities, but also a great many good ideas about FOSS in Africa and what needs to be done to develop the community, get it into communication and get things happening.
From the university perspective, quite a few ideas come to mind, chief among them the need to establish training and certification. As a teacher at the University of the Western Cape here in South Africa, I can report that UWC has recently made a commitment to Open Source. We are currently running most of our servers on a Linux platform and the Shuttleworth foundation has sponsored computer labs dedicated to FOSS. As a next step, it would be nice to be able to begin the process of not only teaching with Open Source at UWC, but providing certification that is course inclusive, in other words that comes as a side effect of taking certain courses. In this way we achieve the death of a flock of birds with a single stone: firstly, the students have something to add to their CV’s; secondly the companies that head-hunt our students annually will have something more to consider; thirdly the university benefits by providing students that are more marketable and by increasing recruitment of alumni by the market; fourthly the FOSS community benefits by young qualified recruits; and finally (but not least 😉 ) Red Hat benefits by increasing its exposure in (South) Africa and having its certification available at recognised tertiary education institutions. We need to engage with Red Hat on this topic.
Today we were all talking about going forward, and one of the things that became obvious when accessing various sites about FOSS, was that although we here in Africa know that there’s FOSS activity and work being done here, the rest of the world doesn’t know about us. This is another thing we need to fix – we have a huge human resource out there that we need to be thinking about harnessing and involving – something like what was behind the establishment of the African Institute of Mathematical Sciences (AIMS). I guess a good first step would be to begin setting up a few conferences and getting some of the European and American personalities to visit and encourage us, and get to know us and about us.
So – it’s all drawing to a close, and the experience was remarkable. Apart from the remarkable enthusiasm and obvious competence of the presenters, the spirit that developed between us all over the last five days was amazing. I really hope that we keep this excitement and enthusiasm going into the future; if we do we’ll be unstoppable.
Thanks Mel, Pierros and Jan – it was a privilege to meet you guys and share in your enthusiasm and belief in what you do, and for the community. Hopefully, we’ll see you all again sometime!