The first Nigerian conference on Free and Open Source Software was held this week in Kano, Nigeria. The conference featured local speakers, consultants, network engineers, system administrators and academics, and international guests from KDE for three days at Bayero University of Kano. Over 500 students and professionals attended, filling the hall to capacity.
The honourable commissioner for science and technology Dr Bashir Galadanci opened the conference on Friday morning, referring to his experiences with Free Software in Italy in the 1990s; he expressed hope for the future of Free Software in Nigeria and encouraged all those present to develop their technical skills. The director of the Centre for Information Technology, Dr. Muntari Hajara Ali, echoed these sentiments and stressed that the attendees are in the forefront of the effort to domesticate IT and giving Free and Open Source software a place in the Nigerian economy.
Not all of the scheduled speakers were able to attend the conference, visa and travel issues made some of the guests unable to reach Kano on time. Fortunately the schedule was flexible enough to accommodate this, and other speakers filled in the gaps that were formed.
Conferences in Nigeria are affected by power cuts just like everything else; sometimes it is necessary to shout instead of speaking into a microphone, and some talks that depended too heavily on slides were disjointed. All were appreciated by the audience, and a UPS kept the projector running through some of the outages. Topics ranged from the highly technical like Adriaan de Groot's talk on software checking tools, to the general and introductory such as Ibrahim Abubakar Dasuma's introduction to Free Software applications. These addressed the wide range of interests and abilities of the attendees. Jonathan Riddell's talks were interspersed with handing out stickers to audience members who gave correct answers to questions.
The conference concluded with a cultural display at the Kano Museum opposite the palace of the Emir of Kano; there is photographic evidence that white men can dance if you make them. Photos (but no dancing) shows you more.