Wednesday, July 30, 2008

OSCON Lessons for Africa

The Open Source Convention of 2008 has closed its doors. It might not have been right to count our gains and losses during the conference, but it is time and timely, to do so.

The first of all lessons was the increasing number of attendance from Africa. The word increasing may look absurd, because it does not mean from 20 to 50 or even from 10 to 25, but at least it means from 3 to 8.

The second was the quality of participation. Mark Shuttleworth gave a key note and was in two other panels. Derek Keat, though hitting his first OSCON runs, was instrumental in the education panel. He also made the great leap in actually showcasing AVOIR - an initiative from Africa. Nnenna Nwakanma stepped in for Africa during the all-important Open Source/Open World Panel organized by the Open Source Initiative. At the Expo Center, Chisimba was available for the hundreds of OSCONers to get a first hand experience of innovation made-in-Africa.

The third was the overwhelming percentage of the Republic of South Africa in Africa's participation. Yes, ceci explique cela. The analysis of the why's and wherefores may be a good thing for you to blog about.

There are other other lessons. Let us not crowd it.

One thing, though, comes out clear, hearing FOSS African voices at international levels CANNOT be the sole duty of the Republic of South Africa. We all need to move beyond this.

The second is that the OSI - Open Source Initiative was the contributor to the entire participation of the one female person from Africa. Partly because the OSI believe in this global engagement of all open source actors, actresses (please forgive me) and advocates in the global OS discourse, and partly because of her own personal engagement and proven leadership in the FOSS arena.

On the African continent, the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa - FOSSFA, has this mandate too. To make African FOSS voices, actions and initiatives to be seen, heard, known, used and promoted.

Open Source not-for-profit organisations like OSI and FOSSFA will be healthier if enough support is given them to continue their engagement at all levels. This is critical to the success of Open Source itself, as a movement of global community engagement.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Web Foundation

David Recordon, Open Platforms Technical Lead at the Six Apart
has announced the launch of the Open Web Foundation during this Open Source Convention.
So here is to an Open Invitation to look at the fundamental building blocks of the Open Web Foundation and contribute to its construction.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

African Open Education Experts bring issues to fore at OSCON

Some 2000 education experts are participating at the Educational Panel here at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention.

African Free Software gurus, Mark Shuttleworth and Prof Derek Keats have called attention to the key position of Open Education Resources, Open Content and Open Hardware in the global search for a changing face of education at all levels.

The other major outcome of this session is also the overwhelming endorsement of world experts of the Cape Town Open Education Declaration

Please sign this and support the cause of a global education based on Openness

180 seconds to change minds 180 degrees in favor Open Source Communities

The 10th edition of the Open Source Convention is happening here at the Convention Center in Portland, Oregon. A key session will be Danese Cooper's Art of Community Lightning Talks. Danese has invited awesome girls to talk about OS community. Big names like -
Dawn Foster, Erinn Clarke, Allison Randall, Leah Culver, Stormy Peters, Silona Bonewald, Nnnena Nwakanma, Sulamita Garcia and Audrey Eschright.

3 minutes to say everything? Girl oh Girl!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Public Transport in Abidjan goes on foot

Folks here will loose some fat over this week. The red taxis (taxis compteurs), the shared taxis (woro woro) and the mini buses (Gbaka) are on strike. The strike hit the streets on Monday morning. On the eve, the messages were mixed - we are striking, no, we are not. Then in the morning, the streets went empty. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday .... it is Friday today.

Late Thursday night, the government spokesperson announced a series of 'consultations'. The first one will be with transport associations. The second will be with drivers. These two will be followed by a ministerial meeting, which will be followed by a cabinet meeting.

And all of that will be ended by an official announcement. The government spokesperson said the government will announce to the nation and to the 'international community'.

That will be Monday... but between then and now... ???


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Eli-Samuel Roland

Bonjour mon petit.

Moi, c'est Tantie Nnenna. Je viens d'apprendre que tu es arrivé à Abidjan ce matin. Et ton voyage? J'espère qu'il se bien passé. Dieu soit loué.

On t'a beaucoup attendu ici. Moi je prie le Seigneur pour qu'Il t'accorde une vie heureuse.
En tout cas, ici à Abidjan, on dit de ces genres de ton cas que c'est une affaire... à suivre.

Abidjan is missing Aubrey Hooks

A number of months have gone by since the last US Ambassador to the Ivory Coast left Abidjan. On the occasion of this year's Fathers' Day, we all remembered him. Last year, he was on TV doing something. Something which may be considered the very opposite of an Ambassador's job. Aubrey Hooks was cooking! A dish he learned from his grandmother!

Many Ambassadors have come and gone in the US Embassy in Abidjan, and in many other embassies as well in the country. But none has come close to the heart of the population as Aubrey Hooks. Aubrey Hooks toured more Ivorian towns than some natives. He proved that His Excellency can also be a man of the people.

He went down to places that many of the country's top shots would prefer to send their representatives. He associated with all levels of the population. We saw him at official dinners, at negotiation tables, and with the President. But we also saw him among townsfolk, refugees, young people and even school kids.

I remember him in cultural functions.. comedy, music, beauty pageants... all dressed up like the people and enjoying himself. I used to watch his body language... to decipher is he were doing social image-making for his country. Maybe he was, but he certainly had a personal interest in the things he did. You could see he had a love for culture, for the society, for humanity.

We are not in a position to evaluate his diplomatic results. In truth, we really do not want to. But one thing is sure. He did transcend that role. He had a face that has been lacking in many development issues – that of individuals who are not just doing their jobs and representing their countries, but of persons who are genuinely concerned about the population. Officials who really want to see the lives of the population improve, who want to see them happy.

Abidjan is missing you, Aubrey Hooks. Wherever you are... just note it. Like it is said here, you left a big hole in our hearts.

Maybe it is not really you, the individual that, we are missing, but what you represented – a partner who has respect for counterparts, who appreciates what is good about them and participates in their efforts to face their challenges.

We do hope to get more Aubreys... not just in Ivory Coast, but in Africa.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fuel Wahala in Abidjan

Finally, them don announce am. Fuel increase for Abidjan. Na nwii we don already begin hear so. Even before gorment talk im own, drivers don already print new prices. Them been dey kampe dey wait official announcement. Nobody wan know how much the increase self be. The only thing wey driver know, na him own price. Gorment increase na 17%, driver increase na 40%

Person no dey look person face. You dey go abi you ney do go? If you wan enter, make you enter, if you no hold the money, comot for road. Na politician dey do négociation. Like Naija dey talk say, money for hand, back for ground, na so Abidjan drivers don become oo. If you no get the money, no near my car. I no dey for nonsense talk.

Yarko! Na so them dey talk am. Kpêle, ndo.

Poverty no go kill us.

Friday, July 4, 2008

La liberté d'Ingrid Betancourt ou la raison d'Alvaro Uribe

Alvaro Uribe a eu raison. Il l'a dit et il l'a maintenu. Ce n'est pas la peine d'engager des négociations avec la FARC. Elles n'amèneront nulle part. Nous nous félicitions de sa victoire. La victoire de la raison mûrie d'expérience, de connaissance de la terre, cette connaissance qui est synonyme de sagesse.

Lui, il est en Colombie, il vie avec les membres de FARC, il les connaît. Il sait de quel bois ils se chauffent, de quoi ils sont capable. Alvaro Uribe connaît tout cela.

Mais seulement voila, il se trouve que ce Monsieur n'est pas le Président dans un pays dit "développé" La Colombie n'est pas une puissance militaire, ni membre de l'Union européenne.
La Colombie est en Amérique du sud, parmi d'autres pays classé comme pauvres, dont je ne sais combien de pourcentage vie avec moins d'un Dollar par jour...

Alvaro Uribe démontre ici qu'être riche ne donne toujours pas raison et être pauvre ne pas synonyme de la perte de raison non plus. Les pauvres peuvent avoir raison. Même au sein des Nations.

Négocier avec une rébellion, c'est lui donner raison. La réconforter dans sa position et lui donner les moyens pour durcir sa position afin de pousser encore loin. C'est un cercle vicieux, une fois entré, on s'en sort très rarement.

Négocier avec une rébellion, c'est aussi faire le marketing des ses fournisseurs. Ceux qui lui vendent les armes. Plus la négociation dure, plus les deux parties doivent s'armer, plus le fournisseur se frottent les mains.

Ses fournisseurs d'armes "développé". Là où naissent beaucoup des ces mouvements. Ces pays qui offrent gîte et couvert aux chefs de rébellions, qui abritent leur Quartiers Généraux, qui leur offrent de l'asile politique...

Non, Alvaro Uribe a choisit la non-négociation. Il a choisit une option militaire qui n'arrange pas les affaires des maîtres trafiquants, et il a eu raison.

Dans ce monde sans équilibre économique, social, militaire ni politique, il est encore possible d'écouter la sagesse de ceux qui connaissent le terrain. Comme le disait une publicité bien conne, sans la maîtrisé, le pouvoir n'est rien. Que ceux qui détiennent le pouvoir prennent un temps pour considérer les options de ceux qui ont la maîtrise.

Ingrid Betancourt a eu la liberté, Alvaro Uribe a eu raison. Les Puissants ont eu tort.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Journey to Kiremba (Kissing the clouds)

Burundi is one of the war-thorn countries in Africa. I bet the only images you have seen from there are those of thin war-weary soldiers carrying guns that are about the same height with them. Or maybe the ones of women and children with clothloads of property running away from villages to seek refuge from... the soldiers...

As the plane was descending to Bujumbura... I "saw" why the region was called the great lakes region. There were waters, lakes, rivers, mingling with green rolling hills... So before touchdown, my mind made itself up to enjoy the place.

I had come to do the Monitoring and Evaluation of projects run by the Digital Solidarity Fund

The Airport in Bujumbura had a country architecture - in the form of hills and valleys.. Once you hit the main road to town, there is this big billboard with BB and BB. Brussels and Bujumbura, Belgium and Burundi... inciting you to fly Brussels Airlines... Yup!

I enjoyed the fresh fruits for the days I spent in Bujumbura city. The fishes that you eat in the restaurants are from the nearest lakes... they have a kind of freshness that is akin to milk... aie aie aie!

Okay, so we are on our way to Kiremba. The journey will take 4 hours up and down the hills. Ah! So Rwanda is not the only country that has a 1000 hills? No. Burundi also does.. So over there, you dont travel from place to place or town to town.... you travel from hill to hill. And every hill has its name..

Boy, those guys can build winding roads. Up, up, up, up, and up. Then down, down, down and down. Green, greener, green and greener! Beautiful!

Then my ears start... the feeling you get in the plane... due to the altitude... And when I look down, its tea farms to the left, banana farms to my right. Green and beautiful!

All this time inching up, up, into the clouds... literally... until we went right into them.

I begged them to let me out. Those things were clouds, real ones, all around... I let them caress my hands. I just stood in the middle of it all. Breathings huge lung-fulls of the pure goodness.

Trust me, I stuck out my tongue... and tasted the freshness... It tasted like...forget it... the only word is heaven!

Lost in the mountains, Kiremba welcomes us. Bernabé, who was leading us was a 60-year old guys. He kept talking about his parents - both of them. We go round the projects talk with people who are accessing the Internet on connections brought in with a satellite .... shared their joys, the challenges and their hopes.

Then we went off to see the school, the church, the hospital and the Orphanage
Bernabé's father shows up, he has walked down from his hill to the orphanage. He was going to lead us round to the farms that help supply food and milk to the more than 100 children in the orphanage. We were going downhill. The man looked good for his age, healthy and smiling. But since it was a bit slippery going down, I offered my hand and he took it.

Then we come to this place where you need to take a wide step. I felt it was better to hold his back and let him step over before I do. Then I noticed his hand was on my back...

Hang on! Who is assisting who here? The old man says he was holding me to make sure I did not fall! Oh my! So it was the 90-year old man that was leading me.. I asked why, because I felt he was the one needing assistance...

No, he said. I was born and bred in Kiremba. These hill paths know my footsteps. And I know every winding path around here.

After the visit, he takes us to his own hill to see his wife. I look at this couple who have been lovers for over 70 years. They live on their own, no heart issues, no eye glasses, no major health issues...

And I tell me.... these guys are still around for many more years to come...