Tellingly, when you search for “barcamps“ on Google, the first location-specific reference is not San Francisco, Boston, or Seattle. No, it’s Bangalore, once known for its large British military station, and today the so-called Silicon Valley of India. BarCamp Bangalore has already held six events over the past couple years, starting in April of 2006. Barcamp Bangalore 7, held once again at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, will take place on September 13 – 14 and include a “hack night“ to develop web applications using open web frameworks like Django and Ruby on Rails.
In February I wrote a post here explaining the tremendous expansion of the BarCamp movement to Argentina, Thailand, Ukraine, Latvia, South Africa, and Kenya. In the past six months, that expansion has only accelerated.
A glance at Barcamp.org shows that this weekend alone will see major barcamps take place in Uganda, Thailand, Mumbai, Peru, Azerbaijan, Munich, Amsterdam, Bolivia, and Ukraine. All at the same time. All around the world.
With so many geek meetups in so many places around the world it is easy to take for granted 1.) the amount of work that goes into organizing a barcamp and 2.) the importance of bringing together local open source programmers and open content bloggers, especially in developing countries. To gain a better appreciation, let’s a take a closer look at two specific barcamps: this weekend’s Barcamp Bolivia taking place in El Alto and La Paz on August 29 and 30 and BarCamp Madagascar, which will be held on October 4 in Antananarivo.
The two-day “unconference” will take place in high-altitude El Alto the first day and then down the hill in the capital, La Paz. Voces Bolivianas, a grantee project of Rising Voices, is organizing the event which will include sessions on the current state of Web 2.0 tools in Bolivia and allow participants to present their own blogs and their web projects to all gathered. To insure inclusivity, Voces Bolivianas has offered travel scholarships to Bolivian bloggers from “from underrepresented groups and regions.”
The organizers have also invited David de Ugarte, a renowned Spanish blogger and author of “The Power of Networks: An Illustrated Manual for Cyberactivists“, as this year’s “international speaker.” The event will serve as an opportunity for Bolivia’s ever-expanding community of bloggers and programmers to converge and debate how Web 2.0 and open source technologies can be best applied and adapted to a Bolivian context. New applications and projects might also emerge from the meeting.
Madagascar’s first ever barcamp will take place on October 4 at Hotel Ivotel Ambohidahy in the capital, Antananarivo. According to the English-language version of the website:
BarCamp Madagascar will be the first BarCamp event in Madagascar. The full-day event is free of charge for all participants and will include presentations, lightning talks, and meetups on various topics of interest to the Malagasy technology community. Coffee, lunch, and a commemorative T-shirt included with your $0 entrance fee (thanks to our sponsors!). This is a collectively-owned community event. Every attendee is expected to participate in some way, however small, and help make it happen. BarCamp Madagascar can be the tech event you always dreamt of, if you make it that way!
The Barcamp should provide an excellent opportunity for Malagasy programmers and bloggers to learn about each other’s projects. Pierre Maury, for example, will discuss the first Malagasy digital library while others will try to get a sense for the current state of open source software development in Madagascar.
From Firefox to OpenOffice to WordPress, most of the open source software we’ve come to take for granted was first developed in the United States. However, with open source programmers and bloggers creating stronger communities in places like Madagascar and Bolivia, it is only a matter of time until the next great open source project comes from Dakar, not San Francisco. It could be speech recognition software from India, a breakthrough mobile application from Nairobi, or quite likely, an application that no one else had thought of from a country that many have barely heard of.