The Second Open Source Software Africa Conference
Craig A. Adams
The 2nd Open Source Software Africa Conference was held at the Indaba Hotel in Johannesburg on the 26th and 27th of August, 2004.
The event was attended by delegates mostly from South Africa, with the majority of these delegates being drawn from government and academia. I was given the opportunity to chair the event on both days, and whilst the conference got off to a rocky start due to issues with notebooks and projectors, the conference was an overall success. Last year, the 1st Open Source Software Africa Conference attracted approximately 80 delegates, but this year the attendance more than doubled to 168 delegates, including speakers, guests and exhibitor staff.
Exhibitors, Sponsors and Endorsers
Exhibitors, sponsors and endorsers of the conference included BD Solutions, Dax Data, Go Open Source, LPI, MPS, NACI, Novell, OpenOffice.org, PM Ora Software, Savant, SITA, SmartSource, Sun Microsystems and Tectonic. A number of delegates noted that several exhibitors, quite surprisingly, were displaying software not related to Free and Open Source Software except by only the most tenuous of links.
Day One – Thursday, 27 August 2004
Presentations began late on Thursday morning with Ross Addis providing an interesting and divertingly fresh presentation focussing on the motivations of FLOSS developers. His presentation drew upon the works of Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet and various others. Also of particular interest was the presentation by Alan Levins, “10 Reasons Open Source Software Builds Society”. This presentation was particularly insightful, with a look at the ways in which open-source technology and practices build social groups. The presentation was very well received.
Stafford Masie, the Managing Director of Novell South Africa, provided some particularly interesting news with the announcement of the near availability of Suse GNU/Linux from at least a number of significant OEM distributors in South Africa and a national support centre to provide support. This has subsequently been officially announced by Novell in a national (South African) roadshow held over the week of the 6th of September, 2004.
Day Two – Friday, 28 August, 2004
The second day ran a lot more smoothly than the first, until lunch at least. With any two-day conference held over a Thursday and Friday, it is expected that a large number of delegates will drop out on the second day for various reasons including flights and early weekends. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised on Friday morning to note that we had lost less than ten percent of the group. Unfortunately, this trend was not to continue. After lunch about half the delegates had vanished, and by the end of afternoon refreshments, the count had dropped to below thirty.
Dr McKay Motshabi, of the State IT Agency, provided the most important news of the entire event, revealing that the South African Cabinet had adopted the Open Source Software Strategy document. The work has now begun in respect to finding the best way to implement the policy.
Due to the sudden loss of delegates, I asked those remaining if the presentations should continue or if we should hold a general discussion session. By general consensus, the discussion session was selected.
In the general discussion session the challenges facing the exposure and distribution of FLOSS in South Africa were discussed and strategies towards alleviating some specific problems, relating to Africa as a whole, were considered. This session was the most fruitful from my perspective as it was an inclusive discussion which invited real participation and the generation of ideas.
The remaining delegates voiced the need for a more inclusive type of conference where people can actually confer with each other, rather than act as a passive audience listening to a string of speakers expound their interests, concepts, companies, projects and relative worth.
For me, the conference was valuable from a networking and an OpenOffice.org exposure perspective. It allowed me to renew acquaintances, communicate with a number of parties about some of the Southern African Project's initiatives, glean new ideas, and garner more grass roots support.
From Left (Visible Faces): John Grant, AJ Venter, Craig “the grin” Rodney and Eugene Coetzee
About the Author
Craig Adams is the Marketing Project Lead for Southern Africa and continuously strives, within a morass of apathy, to market OpenOffice.org to anyone and everyone, particularly in South and Southern Africa. Whenever possible, Craig tries to attend conferences and exhibitions as a representative of the OpenOffice.org Project, preaching to the converted and evangelising to the oblivious and unwary.
The Southern African Marketing Project maintains the www.openoffice.org.za portal which, optimistically, provides useful information relevant to the local market including links to various types of distributor, consultant and training services.
The Southern African Marketing Project is also the bane of Translate.org.za, which has shouldered the task of translating numerous Open Source and Free Software projects into a huge number of Southern African languages.