Tuesday, 28 April 2009

FOSS Nigeria 2009

To must of us free software users in Nigeria, there is a general assumption that Nigeria is a Microsoft territory. Many average computer users here have never heard of alternative operating systems and office suites apart from windows and MS Office. A few times I came across people that ask me "what type of windows is this ?" when they see my beautiful Gnome desktop running on Linux.

So you see what I mean by Nigeria being a Microsoft territory. Thanks largely to the wide availability of pirated Microsoft software. My assumption was that there a few of us free software users spread across the rest of Nigeria and a larger number clustered in Lagos. But that was to change soon.
In mid January my team received an invitation to attend a conference tagged FOSS Nigeria 2009. So what is FOSS Nigeria 2009?, one might ask.
According to the organizers it's the first Nigerian Free and Open Source Software conference. It took place from 6th to 9th February 2009 at the Center for Democratic Research (Mambayya House) in Kano. It was organized by Hutsoft Nigeria limited collaborating with the Center For Information Technology (CIT) of the Bayero University Kano (B.U.K).
Hutsoft Nigeria Limited is a start-up software company founded by some friends. One of the co-founders, Mustapha Abubakar is a K.D.E enthusiast and has been contributing translations to the K.D.E project. Quite naturally K.D.E guys kind of dominated the conference. When I say K.D.E guys I mean including some of the guys you see on the K.D.E blog. Two of them made it to the conference. Adrian De Groot who was introduced as the vice president of K.D.E e.v (whatever that means) and Jonathan Riddel who was from Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu Linux). Gnome's Stormy Peters was invited but didn't make it, although she sent her speech to the organizers which was printed and distributed to the participants.
The opening session was attended some important figures within Kano state. These include Dr Bashir Galadanci (commissioner for Science and Technology of Kano state) and Prof Attahir Jega (the vice-chancellor of Bayero University Kano)
Unlike most Nigerian IT conferences which were normally dominated by suit wearing executives this one largely has jeans (and sometimes kaftan) wearing geeks and a few important personalities in the Nigerian IT ecosystem.

Hutsoft's Ibrahim Dasuma

Jonathan Riddel

Adrian De Groot of K.D.E e.v

Talks were given by the following people
Dr Bashir Galadanci : Kano state commissioner for Science and Technology
Ibrahim Abubakar Dasuma: CEO of Hutsoft Nigeria Limited
Adrian De Groot : Vice-President K.D.E e.v
Mustapha Abubakar : Hutsoft Nigeria Limited
Jonathan Riddel : Canonical
Auwal Alhassan Tata : Center for Information Technology (CIT) Bayero University Kano (B.U.K)
There were also representation from Information Technology Association of Nigeria (ITAN) and the African University For Science and Technology.
The conference was attended by many B.U.K students a lot of whom were astonished by the possibilities free and open source software has to offer. A lot of them told me that they wouldn't have stuck with propriety software if they previously knew well about open source software. Before the end of the conference many participants installed various distributions of Linux on their laptops. Some of them were even brave enough to wipe out there Windows installation and replace it with Linux.

The last day of the conference was capped with a social event at Gidan Makama a museum located close to the Kano Emir's palace.

Koroso Dancers

There was some traditional Koroso dancing and lot of barbecue meat. One thing is clear about all these; FOSS Nigeria 2010 should not be missed.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

NEIS 2008

This may be a little overdue to blog about, but it's always better late than never. The Northern Nigeria Economic And Investment Summit took place in Abuja from 6th to 9th October 2008. It was organized by the Conference Of Northern Nigeria Chambers Of Commerce Industries Mines And Agriculture (CONCCIMA). It's a response to the economic backwardness of the Northern Nigerian region as a whole.

My team participated in the event as part of the ICT group. The ICT group is formed by all the ICT companies that participated in the event. We were all lumped together by the organizers of the event. Companies in the ICT group are Viatech, 3D formula, Cerebro Systems, SDDS, Walfam and Frontier Systems.

The conference turned out to be more interesting than I initially expected. I attended most of the plenary sessions. There were really interesting talks by a lot of people (some of which I previously only used to see on TV). People like Aliko Dangote, Dr Mansur Ahmad of the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG), professor J.D. Amin of Nigerian Universities Commission took part in the plenary sessions.

Sadiq Modibbo of Frontier systems gave a talk on behalf of the ICT group.

Dr Barth Nnaji of Geometric Energy also sent a representative. Geometric Energy is the company that built the Aba independent power plant in Abia state. According to Mr Nnaji they are currently trying to replicate that project in three Northern cities of Kano, Kaduna and Katsina under a project name K3.

The event ended up looking more like an All Nigerian Economic And Investment Summit and less about Northern Nigeria alone. As somebody stated at the event, you can't discuss a section of Nigeria in isolation from the remaining sections.

Based on the large number of southern Nigerian business men and women at the summit it became obvious that unlike our politicians, our entrepreneurs are relatively free of regional and ethnic bigotry.

After all it's the same money that is spent all across the country.