9.5 Ethiopian FLOSS organisations

Most FLOSS project are international, with contributions from actors from different countries. To find projects that can be said to “belong” to a specific country can be difficult, even more for Ethiopia with its overall limited participation in FLOSS. An obvious exception to this are language related projects. Other exceptions are organisation promoting FLOSS for a specific country or region of the world, and user groups like a Linux User Group (LUG).

In search for user groups relating to FLOSS I looked at the directory of LUGs listed at http://www.linux.org/ and found none. At the Linux Counter ( http://lugww.counter.li.org/ I found one. I checked this at the 7 of August 2006, when I checked this just some moths earlier I found none, so things are happening in Ethiopia. Computers are still far from becoming a tool for hobbyists in Ethiopia, but there are encouraging developments. The use of computers is mostly limited to businesses and the government. Given the feeble support for FLOSS by the government it is no surprise that the use of FLOSS in Ethiopia is still limited. However, I found one Ethiopian FLOSS organisation working on localisation to Ethiopian languages and the recently formed Ethiopian Free & Open Source Software Network
( http://www.efossnet.org/) which was formed in February 2005.

Given Ethiopia’s current political system of ethnic federalism, where each region can decide on their own working language, the support for multiple languages and translations between them is important. Microsoft have only recently started to localise MS Windows and MS Office to Amharic. Given Microsoft’s feeble interest in localising the most spoken language in Ethiopia it is a long shot to think they will do it for Oromo or Tigrinya. With FLOSS software the Ethiopian government can pay developers and translators to do the job and pay in local currency.

The issue of localisation is what the previously mentioned GFF has as its mandate. GFF have made a number of small tools for viewing and editing the Ge’ez script for Windows and Unix systems. Interestingly it has done work to localise Latex and Perl. GFF have even done work on making proposals for the Unicode standard for the Ge’ez script. From the source files released by GFF I have read, it seems like the work has almost exclusively been done by Daniel Yacob. On SourceForge I found a project called LibEth ( http://libeth.sourceforge.net/) which is related to GFF.

At the time being there is little organised activity on behalf of FLOSS in Ethiopia, despite recent encouraging developments. Africa as a whole is poorly represented in the FLOSS community. Because the awareness of FLOSS is rising steeply and many begin to see FLOSS as a mean to bridge the digital divide, this is now changing. An organisation called Free and Open Source Software Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) ( http://www.fossfa.net/) have been founded to promote the use of FLOSS in Africa. FOSSFA has it origin from a ICT workshop in Addis Ababa held in November 2002. An other organisation seeking to promote FLOSS in Africa is Open Source Africa ( http://www.opensourceafrica.org/).