East African Conference on Open Source (EACOS 2022)
Linux Professional Institute (LPI) in partnership with the Eastern African open source community hosted the second East African Conference on Open Source (EACOS-2022) from April 26 to 27, 2022. The event was held as a hybrid event for the first day and as a fully virtual event on the second day. This came as a follow up to the inaugural EACOS held in 2019 at the United States International University for Africa (USIU).
The main goal of EACOS is to bring the players in open source technologies in one place to network, learn together and exchange experiences in the adoption of open source. This includes the industry and open source community, the Government, both national and local, and Academia. As part of the learning opportunities provided by EACOS, this year’s event was preceded by a training boot camp for the Presidential Digital Talent Programme (PDTP) interns under the Kenya ICT Authority. This boot camp was fully sponsored by Linux Professional Institute and covered training and exams on LPIC-1 for 20 interns.
The theme for this year’s event was Enterprise Open Source Migration for the Public Sector. The focus of the conference was the Kenya ICT Policy 2019 which specifically requires all public institutions in Kenya to prefer open source software to proprietary software in their adoption of technology. This in itself is a major step towards the adoption of open source in Kenya. It is a big win for the open source community and players not just in Kenya but also in the region and indeed in the world. The Kenya Government has now formally recognized the immense opportunities and advantages that open source provides to a growing economy and especially the place of open source in avoiding vendor lock in from proprietary software and the attendant high software license fees that are paid annually to global vendors, leading to a great loss in foreign exchange, a negative balance of trade and contributing to local unemployment.
By adopting open source software, Kenya and indeed the entire African continent can make a huge step in growing local innovation and ensuring that we provide better jobs for our huge youth population.
The main objective of EACOS 2022 was therefore to engage the Government in a bid to develop an Open Source Action Plan that would help create a path towards migration to open source software in the public sector. From this perspective, the conference was a great success as we managed to start this conversation with the Government. This was further strengthened by the fact that the Government is already adopting open source software in many of its solution deployments. It was pointed that over 95% of all websites in the public service are built on open source content management systems and the LAMP stack, among many other examples.
The Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs was ably represented through a keynote address by Mr. Jerome Ochieng, CBS, the Principal Secretary, State Department for ICT and Innovation, represented by the ICT Director, Mr. Andrew Opiyo. The Kenya ICT Authority was represented by their acting CEO, Dr. Paul Kipronoh Ronoh. Very productive discussions were also started with the Council of Governors through their CEO, Ms Mary Mwiti, who sent her apologies.
We also had participation and presentations from local open source consultants, academia and indeed several others from across the globe. There was a lot to learn from organizations such as the Digital Public Goods Alliance, SIL International, Linux Professional Institute which was represented by Dorothy Gordon, a member of the board and Jon “maddog” Hall, the Board Chair. Local companies represented were DewCIS, a Kenyan company developing open source solutions used across the globe (OpenBaraza), Busara Core Solutions, Kipepeo Solutions and Linux Learning Centre, an LPI Platinum Partner.
EACOS 2022 was therefore instrumental in starting the conversation and the hard work of actualizing the migration dream has now started in earnest. The next step is to have a follow up with all the stakeholders and build on the outcomes and the conversations that were started at the conference, and establish the open source action plan.