Building the Next Billion Creators - Samson Goddy & Peace Ojemeh, Sugar Labs [Open Source Summit EU 2019]

OSCA (Open Source Community Africa) builds communities and projects around open source in Africa.

Peace is an open source contributor at SugarLabs and active in accessibility and inclusion.

Nigeria has over 200M inhabitants, but is also very diverse internally. 60% of the population are students, most of them are in school. If you’re a student and not studying medicine, law or engineering, you’re a failure. There are tech companies in Nigeria, but the salaries are not equivalent to the cost of living. There are not so many jobs in computer science. So the youths need to get extra jobs to cover their costs. But that leaves them no time to contribute to open source. “How am I going to contribute to OSS if I can’t feed myself.” Also, time spent on the computer is culturally considered as being lazy.

The concept of OSS is not very well known in Nigeria. 1 out of 30 developers is aware of what OSS means. For technical writers, it’s 100 times less. And other fields even less. However, there are designers that do want to join OSCA.

Half of the people interested don’t feel they’re knowledgable enough to join OSS, to contribute. This is where OSCA comes in. It builds the community and the projects to spread OSS. It started in Nigeria and is now in 5 countries in Africa.

A member of the audience organised code camps for Africans living in Europe.

Samson also works for SugarLabs and is co-founder of OSCA.

On the community side, there are chapters in the different cities.

A never-ending problem is to get visa to attend conferences in western countries. People are scared now. Even people working at Google in Lagos get their visa rejected.

To improve self-esteem, there’s a list of projects created in Nigeria. Someone created yorlang, a programming language based on the natural language Yoruba. Bounties help to get contributions, because it overcomes the problem that people need to get extra jobs to survive.

There will be an open source summit in Africa: Open Source Festival 2020, 20-22/2/2020. The tagline is “next billion creators”, as opposed to be the next billion users.

One need is to get access to a computer and stable power. So there’s a need for hubs where people can get access. They exist, but sometimes they’re extremely expensive. One issue in Nigeria is that the cost of living differs wildly from city to city. An alternative is to make sure that developers get laptops. Tech in Nigeria tends to be a lot more expensive, like 30% more for a phone compared to US prices. In other countries, they make hubs as learning centers, sponsored by the government. A problem with that is that it imports politics. E.g. they favour people from the state itself, but most people living in the city are actually immigrants. Also if there is funding, people jump on it because it’s easy money. When the donors notice that, the project gets dropped. The real challenge is getting the laptops in the country. Maintenance is difficult, getting parts. Remember that for developers, they need decent hardware, to be able to run e.g. Android Studio. So just giving the old stuff is not really a solution.