What if we continue with the web portal idea for web design, and make it bigger, expand it. The web design portal serves a very specific purpose: it connects people who need to get their information out (the CBOs and NGOs) to the people who can do that (the local web designers and developers), which subsequently gets the CBOs and NGOs connected to the people with the ability to provide funding or volunteers or whatnot. The web portal will provide a mass hub to enable an e-commerce explosion in the development-support world.
How about another web portal, this time connecting organizations on the ground with software needs, to developers who can build applications to serve those needs. The techies out there scream, “Not another collab-site. We have Sourceforge, we have Launchpad, heck even Microsoft has one starting up!” My response, “None of them focus on the needs of the developing world.” One of the angles I use when preaching Open Source is that free tools enable communities to build software to suit their own needs, which is completely true, but in reality the development scene is not as nicely innudated with programmers as would be hoped. Because we cannot bring the programmers to communities (…easily), let’s bring the communities to the programmers.
Create a hub that allows communities to post speicifcations about their software desires, for example, a database application for manning a library. But at the same time, let them also post their operating system, their computer hardware specifications, and maybe even their level of confidence in their copmuter skills. Will all of this information be easy to attain from community members? Well, I am hoping that if there is a computer, there is also someone who knows how to use it. I have also spent enough time on the ground to know that some of the “knowing how to use it,” would not be enough for this site’s requirements. Therefore the site will not work with every single community, but what development practice ever does?
Armed with this information, let the developers get cracking at it. Emphasize turn-key solutions. Emphasize pushing out a working product quickly, avoiding feature creep at first. Emphasize readable code, use of industry best practices, and future-expandability (but not at the sacrifice of finishing the product). Emphasize an attention to detail and actual usability, something we all know the Open Source world lacks. And of course, open source it so everyone can use it and expand upon it. Build up a web page of continuing projects and also project portfolios. Give developers a chance to show their chops while taking home the gold-star for [global-]community service. Show programmers they can help too. With an emphasis and expectation on simplicity, hopefully projects would be pushed out quickly.
I want to come back to the attention to detail and design. This does not simply apply to in-application experience, but also to how well does this app integrate into the existing operating system. Does it require a bevy of external libraries? Does it crash gracefully? How hard is it to install. If you go by the Linux community standards for these questions, the whole project will fail. When I say turn-key solution, I am not talking Windows-simplicit, let’s strive for Mac simplicity, or better. Maybe the app developer will need to step on the operating system’s toes once in a while, but if it means the application is easier to use and attains broader acceptance than that’s the goal; not POSIX-compliance. Consider it the development challenge to make applications 100% user friendly while also adhhering to operating system standards. Good luck!
It’s just another idea. If someone already knows this is out there, let’s start advertising it to the development community. Ultimately the goal is to let ICT workers on the ground and in the communities know this solution is there fore them. If it’s already there use it, if it’s not, build it. Make it a one-stop software-solution hub to the developing world’s software needs and get more of the global ICT community in on the feel-good factor of development work. Software Development for Development, haha. ICT4D using SD4D, I copyright that (under Creative Commons of course 😉