NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 31 – Hundreds of software developers, IT experts and students will converge at Strathmore University this Saturday to mark Software Freedom Day in Kenya by hosting various training workshops and a conference aimed at educating the public about the benefits of using Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).
FOSS is software that gives the user the freedom to use, alter and share data.
Linux Professional Association of Kenya Chairman Evans Ikua said that there are benefits to using the open source development model.
“There are inherent benefits. It is very easy to develop your own software development capabilities and we need to develop our software engineers, so the best way to do that is by using free and open source software because the openness of the source code allows you to see how the software is made,” he explained.
“The other critical advantage that it gives you is in terms of security. With free and open source software, you’re able to see the source code of the software so you know exactly what’s running behind the software,” he added.
Ikua added that it’s much less costly to run open source software and he noted that more than half of all mobile devices being sold run on the open source Android Operating System and over 70 percent of the web pages on the Internet are hosted on the open source including popular social media applications like Facebook, Twitter, Google and YouTube.
“The future is open, and whether it’s open source technology, open data or open content development, the future is basically open and even the proprietary companies are starting to realise that they actually have to embrace the open source movement,” he said.
“Such big companies like Microsoft have really embraced the open source culture and at some point, all the software developers in this world are going to realise that the best way of making software is using the open source model,” he acknowledged.
He noted that FOSS leads to better software and ease of access to technology and he said that the end result is that better and affordable solutions become available to enhance the quality of life for people all over the world.
“This is even more evident in poor countries where the large masses of unemployed youth can easily arm themselves with technology tools that give them an opportunity to earn a living and improve their quality of life,” he stated.
Ikua lauded Kenya for being the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to launch the Open Data initiative, a government led platform that provides information on a districts/county’s poverty status, school performances and budgets on a website accessible to all Kenyans.
“ICT is one of the pillars in achieving Vision 2030 and for us to achieve that, the most important thing is to develop our own capacities and we can’t develop our own capacities if we’re going to be using proprietary formats that won’t allow for people to access the source code to know how they are made,” he added.
Software Freedom Day is a concept that was started by the Software Freedom Foundation meant to celebrate the FOSS movement on a global scale and this is the first time it’s being held in Kenya since 2007.
The two-day conference, which costs Sh1,000 to attend, will be preceded by various training workshops aimed at imparting practical skills in the leading open source tools and facilitated by some of the leading open source experts in Kenya.
Ikua also announced that on Friday August 31, the Linux Professional Institute (East Africa) will sponsor the Open Source Developers challenge targeted at students who are interested in developing software applications and solutions using Open Source tools.
“This challenge is open to students in all Universities and tertiary training institutions who are studying Computer Science and other related courses,” he said.
“There will be various prizes to be won such as laptops, tablets, smart phones, training manuals, LPI exam vouchers and many more,” he added.