RIA and UCT Win Research Grant to Enhance Africa’s Participation in Open Source Development

In early March, a consortium of foundations announced $1.3 million worth of grants for research projects to support responsible, sustainable and equitable open-source software development. The funding was divided amongst 13 research projects and Research ICT Africa (RIA) in collaboration with the University of Cape Town (UCT) secured one of the grants.

According to Tech Crunch, “The grant-making operation is funded and organized by the Ford Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Omidyar Network and the Mozilla Open Source Support Program in collaboration with the Open Collective Foundation.”

Tech Crunch reports further that “The research projects will look into a number of questions about the way open-source digital infrastructure is being used, maintained and otherwise affected”.

The project undertaken by RIA and UCT is titled, “African digital infrastructures: Evaluating the landscape”. It will create a better understanding of African participation in open source development – an area in which there is relatively little existing research – and how African leadership and participation in open source projects could be enhanced. 

Alex Comninos is the project lead on behalf of RIA and Dr David Johnson leads the project on behalf of UCT. The main question they will be exploring is, “How can African participation in the development, maintenance, and application of the global open source digital infrastructure be enhanced?”

The interdisciplinary team will investigate the extent of African contributions to open source digital infrastructures, identify and understand catalysts of as well as barriers to the uptake and production of open source in Africa, document lessons from successful African-led open source projects, and reveal how digital infrastructures are different in the African context.