Category Archives: Africa

Dreamfish: An Open Global Work Cooperative Creating Local Jobs

In a recent conversation with Nnenna Nwakanma, one of Africa’s leading open source experts and community lead for Dreamfish, Nnenna shared her experiences, passion and ideas on this exciting on-line community. In her own words, Dreamfish is an open and friendly community which balances software development with human interaction and best of all converts project work into jobs and real income for its members. Here is what Nnenna had to say.

Q. Tell us about your involvement with the African open source community and your experience in growing the local ecosystem.

Nnenna: My passion for openness, I was born with! So my engagement with open source is natural. In 2002, we started the Open Source Task Force for Africa. In less than 100 months, open source in Africa has grown far more than we had initially expected. I have seen the rapid growth from the Task Force to the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA). The community has grown and is no longer spreading by additions but by multiplication. I have learnt that hard work, dedication and good leadership are key to growing any ecosystem.

Q. Tell us more about Dreamfish. How does its mission of building community, using open source and creating jobs resound with local communities.

Nnenna: The Dreamfish story is a unique one. The work cooperative is built on the sheer will of its members. People who rise above their difficulties and challenges and with the help of one another, achieve ideals that even beat their dreams. People who are discovering how their work matters by contributing, who are open and collaborative on ideas, projects, dreams and ambitions. You need to read it here.

I am yet to see someone who is not interested in Dreamfish! Dreamfish is more than creating jobs. It is about building community, communication, friendship, continental ties, global knowledge base, experience sharing and life-long learning. Dreamfish members are being coached in project management, software development, leadership skills, personal management and a whole lot of other skills are monetized, within and outside the Dreamfish platform. Every member who joins gets a friend in not more than 24 hours. Dreamfish is the one place where, every time you sign in to chat, you will find a community team member there to open the door for you. Dreamfish is office, it is work, it is friendship, it is family, it is a life-long school. It accepts our present and inspires our future. Dreamfish is work for all in us that is human. Here is the community’s Humanifesto.

Q. How did you get involved with Dreamfish and how do you plan to grow its community further.

Nnenna: I am a community fish. I was looking for a community that balances software development with human interaction. I was also looking for something that has been missing for some time for me – an interface where an online community translates into project and cash for its members. I also was looking for doing lots more and traveling less. Dreamfish gave me the answers I needed – Community, Collaboration, Global Reach, Learning Opportunity, Humanifesto, and my personal dreams.

As Community Lead, I am working with the wonderful Community Team at Dreamfish. Our objectives now are to build capacity. We expect hundreds of thousands of people in no time. So, now, we want builders and leaders in enabling new open source projects to get started in empowering and human environment. We are expanding our successful Fellows Program to experienced software technologists and designers, who want to mentor open sour projects in Dreamfish and build Dreamfish. Dreamfish is recruiting developers who want to further our mission and teach others to fish.

Q. What is your message to the global community. Why would an Indian developer, a Malaysian student or a Brazilian professional join Dreamfish.

Nnenna: All three can be hired, all three are welcome to hire. But beyond work… you can actually find true friends, share experience and make your dreams come true. When we remove the ‘national’ tag, what we get is students who have learning opportunities, developers who can have enough code-writing to keep their minds challenged on a permanent basis, the professional who can meet and collaborate with others on his and their projects.

Here is what you need to do.

Let me also use this opportunity to invite you to our Global Meetups on Eventbrite. The next meetup is scheduled for July 7, 2010 3PM GMT. We will be covering a very important topic – Communicating Across Cultures. Join in at

Q: How does one join Dreamfish? Do they need to lurk on a mailing list or can they participate right from the start?

Nnenna: That is the interesting part of Dreamfish. You can use Dreamfish for exactly what you want and say ‘no, thank you’ to what you don’t want. You don’t even need to join any mailing list. Feel free to sign up, walk over the chat, create a project, join a project, take a bus tour, make friends.. and if there is something you don’t like about any thing.. well you just change it! Everyone is a leader in Dreamfish. Contributors are all equal owners of the cooperative.

When you arrive, we will be there to open the door, welcome you and support your dreams. That is why we call it Dreamfish!

Thanks, Nnenna. Wish you lots of success. See you on Dreamfish.

Ushahidi tracks the Gulf Oil Spill: Open Source Crowdsourcing at Work

Ushahidi - Born in Africa

Ushahidi - Born in Africa

On April 20th, 2010, a methane gas explosion ripped apart the operational oil rig “Deepwater Horizon” in the Gulf of Mexico. This accident has become a catastrophe – the largest oil spill in US history. It has damaged the entire ecosystem of life in the Gulf. The ocean waters and shorelines of Gulf states all the way to Florida and the Mississippi river delta continue to be ravaged by the gushing oil. The spill is affecting millions of people, marine life and wildlife. Major parties involved are trying to find effective solutions to control the spill and cap the leak. More needs to be done.

Tracking the damage

In the last 64 days, many technologies have been deployed to track the oil spill damage and its cleanup. For example, the Oil Spill Crisis Map project by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Tulane University students has successfully been used to track oil spill reports and incidents.

Oil Spill Crisis Map is built on Ushahidi, an open source platform for crowdsourcing crisis information. Ushahidi allows the project team to visualize data on maps and gather data via multiple channels – Web, Email, Text Messaging (SMS), Multimedia Messaging (MMS), Twitter and Cell Phones (including iPhone and Android). Anyone can use these channels to report geo-tagged incidents about oil damaged terrain (beaches, islands, shorelines) and wildlife. Reports can even be submitted anonymously by people.

The power of such a distributed design is evident. 923 reports have been filed to date with 81.26% verification. This information is open, free and accessible (available in multiple open formats such as RSS, KML, JSON, CSV) to anyone who needs it. Anyone can also sign up and receive email or text alerts about spill damage reports in their local area. The tool has empowered local communities to actively participate in tracking, reporting and preventing further damage.

A Potent Combination

Together, crowdsourcing and open source are a potent combination especially during possible emergencies. In this case, the Ushahidi based Oil Crisis Map has helped share data across communities and has openly presented the magnitude of the oil spill. Also, it has enabled people on the ground to actively participate in solving this crisis using current and accurate information.

Ushahidi (Swahili for “testimony”) itself emerged from another emergency – monitoring a disputed Kenyan election in 2007 with a mash-up of eyewitness reports onto a Google map. Today Ushahidi has developers from Kenya (where it started), Ghana, South Africa, Malawi, Netherlands and the US. Ushahidi was also used in Project Vote Report India for India’s 2009 general elections to track election irregularities.

Crisis management software has entered a new era with open source and open data tools like Ushahidi. Open source maximizes opportunities for reuse. Open data maximizes opportunities to share and analyze results. Broadcasting results through the Internet makes outreach possible to affected communities within hours of any emergency. Tools like Ushahidi lower barriers to automated tracking and reporting on crises. Ushahidi is a game changer.