Open Source Empowering Africa

Job Thomas is Education Vanguard at Automattic, a role focusing on training for both customers and members of the WooCommerce team. He’ll be speaking at WordCamp Harare.

At the CMS Africa Summit in Nairobi two years ago, several of the talks focused on one important thing: the importance of open source for the empowerment of Africa. I couldn’t agree more. Open source software removes several hindrances for becoming successful, the biggest probably being that large startup costs are no longer necessary. Open Source Content Management Systems, with WordPress being the biggest, allow entrepreneurs to start their own website at nothing but the hosting cost.

But it goes further, the freedom of the web empowers people all over the world to voice their opinion; speak up in light of oppression; share culturally relevant insights that counter a too Western way of thinking; connect with people in different countries; continents and time zones. The freedom of publishing was why WordPress started, and it still is at the heart of the software’s community.

It doesn’t even stop there, however. The open source community is a meritocracy; you get influence by what you contribute. It doesn’t matter where you live, what you studied, what your race or gender is. Every single person can contribute to open source software. In WordPress, Africans can contribute in the same ways that Americans can. Empowerment starts by being part of something and contributing based on your personality and skills. Open source has that ability.

For that reason, it is great to see WordCamp Harare happening. WordCamps are not primarily communicating ideas events – although this plays a big role. WordCamps are primarily a celebration of the open source community; they gather people with a similar passion for making the web a better place.

I’m excited to come over from Cape Town and be part of this celebration. I’m looking forward to meeting the WordPress Harare community and learn from you. See you there?

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