Via WorldChanging (which is having a fund drive, btw), I came across the Africa Linux Chix site, which is so hot and so cool it's almost ridiculous. Here's the bulk of the post I commented on, and the bulk of my comments, after:
It is probably a good thing that FOSS strategies and tactics are being used in Africa to move things in whatever direction they're gonna go in -- without the additional (colonial?) burden of rights-bound software.
But in the face of limited resources on the planet and even fewer resouces in the majority of African countries, will computing be to Africa be as "important" as it is in the North? Will it take the same shape as we in the US expect? Flash-animated websites, adservers, news feeds for one class of user, proprietary networks for another class of user, etc.
Are woman-centered FOSS efforts going to work differently than capitalist and anti-capitalist (male) ones?
It seems to me that successful computing in Africa is going to have to follow a low-power, distributed model. Everyone who has computing capacity is going to have to share it with everyone else... like the SETI project, in a future Africa, idle cycles from all manner of computing devices (cell phones, PDAs, desktop machines, workstations) are going to have to support the information infratstructure of a future Africa.
Or will Africans simply centralize their computing power in resource-intensive, air conditioned, highly-secured physical locations?
If Cheik Diop was right about Meridional Civilization vs. Northern Civilization, then in the same way that the regular flood of the Nile "programmed" humans to work collectively (ultimately making examples of both monumental architecture and long-term peace possible), Digital Africans would benefit from seeking similar approaches to computing resources. For Diop, what was learned in Egypt thousands of years ago still operates in contemporary Black African cultures. At the time he probably would have classified computing power as a natural resource or a scientific field... this is long before it became a lifestyle. To me, FOSS strategies & tactics, in relation to Africa, could work much more like music.
And my reply (to more in the post than this)...
Computing is indeed a natural resource--we talk of "data mining" but what computing really accomplishes is mind mining--in evolutionary terms, it's the way we can make our brilliance as valuable as once was our physical labor. No place is better situated to make that leap, I think, than Africa (I write this from Southern California).
One point I'd make is that Open Source isn't anti-profit, it's merely anti-capital--in an open source environment, you don't have to amass before you can produce. You can have an idea, write it, and take it to market. There are still barriers, to be sure, but they're fewer than ever, historically. An African woman has as much access as a white man in Palo Alto--other than being outside of the insidery tech community. What she has to weigh against that is a lack of preconceived notions and blissful ignorance of the accepted wisdom in her community--both of which are key ingredients in innovation. I'd urge you to take a "capitalist" approach in terms of monetizing your efforts--make products, start companies, sell stuff, think entrepreneurially. Entrepreneurialism is the noble cousin of capitalism.
The next Steve Jobs may well be an African woman--or women. I think it's very, very likely that this will happen eventually, and that the greatness of a continent will come about as a result of the innovativeness of a true outsider tech culture much like the underground culture that drove Silicon Valley in its heyday.
As for the idea that strategies and tactics could work more like music: that's the most beautiful and powerful idea I've heard in a long, long time, for so many reasons. Music is both deeply structured and intuitive, and that's what computing is--and the business structure that houses it must be exactly that in order to thrive.