A community of technology community managers, leaders, and builders.

6A: Building and managing communities in the developing world

6B: Building and managing communities in the developing world
(Problem solving: difficulty getting engagement)

Michael Drane (Drano)

  • Interhealth International
  • HR information system called Iris
  • Poor connectivity, cultural, …

Alec Smecher (Public Knowledge Project)

  • Attracting developers in developing world
  • Small project with big impact

Michael Downey (OpenMRS)

  • Medical record system
  • Struggle with balancing high “developer” world with e.g. bandwidth needs
  • Keeping software small

Ryan Singer (Market strategy and partner strategy), Bitcoin Entrepreneur

  • Worked with OpenOffice.org community
  • $3-400 billion in remittances; average fees high. Rich stealing form poor.
  • Bitcoin as a low-cost alternative. Latin America, Africa, Asia…
  • Primary challenges are BizDev; finding local partners (importers are best)

Heather (JCP: Java Community Process)

  • Seeing Latin America, Russia, Middle East, Africa, Asia participation growing

Thuy Tu: Civil Engineering

  • What kind of work; what risks you take
  • Recent experience in Belize. Got a random offer about handling recycling. Wondering whether to take it.

Oliver (Mifos)

  • Microfinance software vendor
  • New to technical world
  • Student at University of Washington - Business Administration


  • 15 years’ experience (10-12 professionally)
  • Finding it depressing, frustrating, fun to hear group raising familiar issues
  • Seeing more interest in problem-solving
  • Half of us here are involved in humanitarian FOSS; half from independent/mega/large companies

Let’s try to talk about specific places rather than euphemistic “developing world”.

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Central/Latin America
  • Various parts of Asia?


  • Connectivity
  • Hangouts, Skype, etc. can be too demanding. How do you engage?
  • Synchronous communication has been bad. Asynchronous or low-fi (IRC) more successful.
  • Using meet-ups / workshops to fill the void left by asynchronous (email etc.)communication
  • Local meet-ups one example
  • Finding an oranization with mandate/resources to set up workshops another example
  • Local partners / champions (see “culture”)
  • Language
  • One experience using IRC (even in person) to manage spoken English requirement.
  • Culture / dependency
  • Champions.
  • Wanting to avoid establishing dependency (the soul of FOSS is independence)
  • Identifying and tapping local resources.
  • On-boarding
  • e.g. Vietnam: very hesitant to ask questions
  • Using asynchronous communication may help (time to put thoughts together; English)
  • Matching a fairly fresh (non-intimidating) person up with a newbie to bring them on
  • How did that work? Created a volunteer role (“guide”)
  • People don’t know how to program even though they claim to.
  • Cycle length. How do you plan this from the basics?
  • Can small projects afford that investment?
  • Choose local partners very carefully to ensure a baseline.
  • Notions of collaboration. People don’t have the same notion.
  • Combatting fear of “having heads chopped off”
  • Use challenges. Should have fun, but should feel challenged.
  • Communication breakdown may indicate more face time is required


  • Philosophical – can we expect less monied societies to sacrifice security for FOSS feel-goods?
  • e.g. A central figure in India FOSS contributor passes away; community is threatened b/c of loss.
  • Local business development as a way to influence local culture in a sustainable way
  • Job requirement (e.g. medical systems – have to have something, FOSS one option)
  • Career advancement. That’s great, but how do you get them to stick around?
    • It might be a loss of a person, but it means refining/building the process.
  • Consider “infinite” supply of awesome potential people. Everyone who leaves, leaves aware of your project.


  • Communication
  • Asynchronous is a necessary, big piece of the pie.
  • Nothing beats boots on the ground for high-bandwidth engagement
  • May involve considerable investment in skill development
  • Culture was a major topic of discussion.
  • Different ideas of collaboration
  • Finding the incentive that applies where you are: Philosophical; Business development; Career advancement

Successful projects

  • Gnome; Debian; Guadec

Hi @asmecher - You might want to edit the title to “6A”. I mis-read an ambiguous letter on the schedule wall. :eyeglasses:

Thanks, @downey – done!

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