Digital • Infrastructure • Fund

Regional Open Source Software Communities: The View From Dhaka, Bangladesh

In the past five years, there’s been a Cambrian explosion of “regional communities” in Dhaka, emerging around not just open source projects but proprietary technologies or platforms. This is a result of multiple trends. Some of these are specific to Dhaka: growing interest in the computer science discipline, a desire for students to add extra-curricular expertise to their resumes, a lackluster job market creating additional pressure to do so, and few modern programming resources for students to build their skills. But they are also the result of globalization and the internet: companies entering international markets, seeking product ambassadors and software localizers, recognizing the pool of volunteer labour available to perform these task, coordinating them virtually. Open source projects have not been an exception to these trends, and may have been accelerated them.

Anushah Hossain, as part of her DI grant, has produced a report on these open source communities that delves into the issue in detail. You can read it here.

The findings of this study suggest that the path for honing a new generation of open source code contributors is uncertain, both because of specific historical experiences working on open source projects, as well as structural shifts in the local economy and global tech sector. But for interveners -- policy makers, community managers, funders -- there are several opportunities to support and engage with these communities, including bolstering human capital by offering educational materials, mentorship, and training/employment opportunities and localizing and translating software and documentation into Bangla for ease of use.

The findings also suggest that contributions towards open source projects do occur in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but under a broader definition of “contribution” that includes marketing, education, and translation. As these activities become more commonplace and better recognized, interveners may consider taking steps such as offering formal rewards or titles, or even financial compensation for skilled work.

Read more here.

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