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Linux Journal: Algorithms in Africa

May 21, 2001, 21:24 (10 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Wayne Marshall)

This article, written by a former foreign aid worker, addresses the issues surrounding bringing technology to developing nations as its starting point and moves on to discuss the specific usefulness of Linux in these instances. The author's decidedly lucid about the perils of promoting technology for its own sake. For people who've ever wondered what the story was behind vim's ":help uganda" command, there's something interesting, too. The related story at the bottom ("Visit to Kibale") has more from vim's author, too.

"Beyond the software itself, though, it is the culture of Linux and Open Source communities that provides the model for meaningful outcomes. This is the culture of sharing and empowerment, of the thousands of Linux users' groups throughout the world, of the Linux Documentation Project and the general willingness of one user to selflessly help another. Participating as a Linux user is all about developing crucial skills and passing them on. Often users' groups hold regular installation clinics, giving new users personal, one-on-one support from an enthusiastic peer. And these users' groups are often active in other community projects, such as helping schools install servers and network connectivity, while transferring the skills necessary to maintain them. Each of these connections is essentially more human than technical, linking people together more than their machines, and can lead anywhere. Each of these personal connections sows the seeds of others, and the spread of the Linux bloom is now reaching to every corner of the earth. For example, even though the use of internet technology in Guinea is nascent, Linux certainly preceded my own arrival here. One finds Linux books in French in bookstores and Guineans eager to learn more about this ``true'' operating system."

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