Open source rising in Africa

Summary:One of the fastest-growing markets for open source in the world is Africa. (The satellite image is originally from NASA.

One of the fastest-growing markets for open source in the world is Africa. (The satellite image is originally from NASA.)

If you think of sub-Saharan Africa in terms of jungles or primitivism, you're making the same mistake Europeans do when they think of America as the Wild West.

Africa has a large, and growing middle class, spurred on in part by technology, and the flattening of the world described by Thomas Friedman.

My go-to guy here is Emeka Okafor of Timbuktu Chronicles. No relation to the NBA Rookie of the Year, he is instead a New York-based consultant and entrepreneur who follows African business closely. Timbuktu itself is in Mali, at the southern edge of the Sahara, and Okafor's posts specialize in sub-Saharan Africa.

"The creation and building of applications that open-source truly allows will over a period of time help nurture a self-sustaining technical culture," he wrote me recently. "This is critical, above and beyond the fact that it is 'free'."

There are a growing list of African open source resources. There's a Free and Open Source group in Ethiopia, a center for open source called EOCOSS in Uganda, there is Wi-Fi training based on open source, and a Nigerian project called WaZoBiaSoft aimed at localizing open source in various West African languages. The Nigerian Computer Society also posts frequently on open source.

The point is that Africa is a growing market for open source programming and that a rising tide, indeed, lifts all boats.

Topics: Open Source


Dana Blankenhorn has been a business journalist since 1978, and has covered technology since 1982. He launched the Interactive Age Daily, the first daily coverage of the Internet to launch with a magazine, in September 1994.

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