Peer-producing knowledge: a game-changer for development cooperation? – Question 5 of 10 on ‚learning by sharing’

November 22, 2014 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn

Some critics argue that commons-based peer production and learning only apply in the digital, non-real world (“building websites”, “building online training material”). The concept, they say, is therefore less of interest to international and development cooperation, which focuses on non-digital environments and “hard” topics such as health, energy or agriculture.

Jaime from Bolivia and John from Rwanda are not in the business of building websites. They are in the business of building tube digesters to support local biogas production in rural Bolivia and in rural Rwanda. They live 6,515 miles apart, but they both use the same manual to build the tank. It is one of 822 open online articles packed with practical production know-ledge on the knowledge commons platform energypedia. The platform’s vision is “a world of free knowledge exchange and mutual learning on renewable energies in which everyone has access to sustainable energy sources.”

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What makes learning communities self-governed & fun? – Question 4 of 10 on ‚learning by sharing’

October 1, 2014 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn

Frank Ilugulilwa - IT Trainer in Tanzania / Copyright:  Frank Ilugulilwa

Frank Ilugulilwa – IT Trainer in Tanzania / Copyright: Frank Ilugulilwa

Frank Tilugulilwa is an IT trainer in Tanzania. He teaches local IT companies how to build services and revenues around so-called “Free and Open Source Software”. Such software can be copied and modified by every company and every individual client. Frank has written a training manual with over 80 other IT trainers and experts throughout Africa (and from elsewhere in the world) in an example of a community-generated learning content. His experience with commons-based peer production started back in 2008 when almost no training materials rooted in an African context were available.

Frank and other African IT and business experts developed over 250 pages of practical, open-licensed, modular training material. This has also resulted in a vibrant community of trainers who have a strong sense of ownership of their subjects and who know and trust each other. They are sharing their knowledge amongst themselves and their trainees, local IT companies across the continent. Again, we see the power of peer-to-peer learning centered around a knowledge commons: the process began as a capacity building program called ict@innovation launched by German development agency GIZ. The project aimed at creating business and learning opportunities with free and open source software in Africa. Now it is a community of more than 1,200 co-learners, co-producers and businesses (UNCTAD 2012: 65f).

This example can serve as a starting point to provide good practice measures on how initiatives can structure learning around peer-production processes.

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How to build learning communities, that work peer-to-peer? – Question 3 of 10 on ‚learning by sharing’

September 22, 2014 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn

In the field of online sharing and learning, the “Massive Open Online Course” (“MOOC”) has received a lot of attention. Many are enthusiastic about what elite universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Harvard are piloting. The two schools have offered joint online courses that have attracted well over 100,000 students. Much is also written about the start-up ventures Udacity and Coursera, which managed to enroll over two million students in just one year. These ventures provide a forum to some of the world’s best professors to host their lectures online. The students are then encouraged to participate through online forums that helpbuild a joint learning



community. They typically do not offer academic credit aside from, in some cases, a statement of completion. But they also do not charge tuition. There are estimates that only about ten percent of students who sign up for courses actually follow them until the end 1. And it still remains to be seen whether mass distribution of centralized online lectures will ultimately be incorporated into the formal educational system or whether they are just briefly hyped by universities and venture capitalists searching for new revenue sources and recognition.This article will, therefore, go beyond the MOOC.

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  1. See article by Tamar Lewin (2013, January 1): “Students Rush to Web Classes, but Profits May Be Much Later”, New York Times

Let’s talk about “Learning by Sharing”

July 2, 2014 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn, News on publications, Open Source & Africa

Source and Copyright: (GIZ)

Source and Copyright: (GIZ)

Today, I invite you to join the conversation on an article, which I just published on the issue of “Learning by sharing – how global communities cultivate skills and capacity through peer-production of knowledge“. I posit in this paper, that commons-based peer learning offers a trigger to enhance skills, competencies, connections, capacities, and the agency of people and their organisations on a global scale – from the global peer-to-peer university to a worldwide expert  community of biogas digesters producers. It provides the freedom to learn – by sharing the world’s wealth of knowledge.

What do you think? Do you know additional examples of global -based peer production for human development?  What are your thoughts on how to link sustainable human development to solutions that scale, empower, benefit, and increase ownership? Is peer-to-peer learning a potential game changer?

I cordially invite you to read the article and to join the conversation by posting your comment below the piece.

If you are part of the TLDR-community (Too long didn’t read …): Don’t worry, I will release selected subtopics of “learning by sharing” over the coming weeks here on Stay tuned: You can subscribe the rss feeds of new posts or follow me on twitter.

ict@innovation featured in UNCTAD’s new Information Economy Report – Africa Launch with FOSSFA

November 29, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, News on publications, Open Source & Africa, Open Source IT business

informationeconomyreportcover2012Great news: Yesterday, UNCTAD launched its latest Information Economy Report. Free and Open Source Software is discussed extensively in this years’ edition, which has a focus on “The Software Industry and Developing Countries”. Also great news: the FOSSFA/GIZ capacity building programme ict@innovation is featured prominently, both in the report and at its Africa launch, which was held yesterday at the United Nations Conference Center in Addis, at the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The embargo has been lifted on the document and I recommend its reading to all FOSS activists and businesses.

Congrats to everyone, who has been steering those processes in the past year! Cheers, Balthas

Excerpts of the report and its press release, which I liked (among others):

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Interview on Ethiopian blogging: “Blogging puts Ethiopian life on the Internet – and opens rooms for debates”

May 5, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn, Open Source & Africa, Open Source IT business

Markos interviewed by Balthas Seibold  / Picture: Balthas Seibold, Licence: see this website's license

Markos interviewed by Balthas Seibold / Picture: Balthas Seibold, Licence: see this website’s license

[Please note: This blog post is a preview of the interview to be published soon on the Alumniportal Deutschland (APD) – subject to further editing].

Last week saw ‘re:publica 2012’ in Berlin, Germany’s largerst conference on blogging, social online networking and internet community. This years edition went global and put Africa on the map of social media. One of the speakers from the continent was Markos Lemma, an Ethiopian blogger, GIZ alumnus and innovation project coordinator for GIZ’s labour-market education programme in Ethiopia (former ecbp).

In this interview first published on the Alumniportal Deutschland, Markos gives us his reasons to be a  blogger in Ethiopia, reports on the latest developments of the blogging scene in his country and tells why he is betting on social media to tackle protracted development challenges in his country. He also gives us his vision for knowledge sharing within German international corporation programmes. Markos is blogging both on the Internet and on the Alumniportal Deutschland (APD).

APD: When did you write your first blog and why ?

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ITU promotes Linux Certification in Arab countries – links to Africa’s ict@innovation

March 13, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Open Source & Africa, Open Source IT business

The Linux penguin - by Nemo, licensed under a Public Domain CC0 license, source:

The Linux penguin – by Nemo, licensed under a Public Domain CC0 license, source:

Last week, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU)  announced a new LPI certification and training project throughout the 22 countries in the League of Arab States.

This is certainly good news for ICT capacity building in general and even more interesting for the community of ict@innovation, which has been building training capacities around Linux Administration in Africa since 4 years. It looks like there is a lot to share between the pan-African community of 200+ Linux Admin trainers of ict@innovation and the new Linux training partnership in the Arab world. According to the Linux Professional Institute (LPI), which is partnering with ITU in the Arab region, the new programme aims at establishing 132 Linux “Train the trainer” centers on all three levels of Linux professional Institute Certification.

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German Government funds German-African research partnerships to build ICT study courses in Africa – BMBF releases call for proposals with a funding of up to €150,000 per course and year

March 8, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn

What the call is about: The German Government via its Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) released a call to fund research partnerships between German Research institutions and partners in Subsaharan Africa. One of the main goals is to build  African ICT study courses and to fund exploratory measures / pilot measures in  “Applied information and communication technologies (ICT)”  via German-African research partnerships.

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New online courses on GNU/Linux skills by the Free Technology Academy

March 2, 2012 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn, Open Source IT business

Logo of FTA, copyleft 2007: FTA, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution share alike license, source:

Logo of FTA, copyleft 2007: FTA, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution share alike license, source:

Just got news about this years courses by the Free Technology Academy, which is a partner of See the following announcement: The Free Technology Academy expects to run two course modules for users and systems administrators who want to get started with GNU/Linux systems. Skills in this area are increasingly demanded and hard to find for employers [1], making these topics very interesting for any IT professional.

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UNCTAD Information Economy Report 2011 mentions ict@innovation

November 24, 2011 in Freedom to innovate, Open Source & Africa, Open Source IT business

UNCTAD just released their Information Economy Report 2011 focusing on the link between ICTs and private sector development. It also mentions our programm ict@innovation with FOSSFA (see section on “developing human resources” page 59).

Check the: Information Economy Report 2011 – ICTs as an Enabler for Private Sector Development

More Info on the site here:

Talk on open innovation & book launch of “Free your IT-business in Africa” at Africa’s FOSS gathering “Idlelo 4”

May 21, 2010 in Freedom to innovate, Open Source & Africa, Open Source IT business

idlelo4This biennium’s Idlelo (four) conference on Open Source and the Digital Commons in Africa organized by FOSSFA had the theme of “Development with ownership” and took place in Accra, Ghana from 17.04-21.04. Balthas Seibold was there to launch with FOSSFA a training book resulting of the joint regional capacity building programme “ict@innovation – creating business and learning opportunities in Free and Open Source Software”. The guide with the title “ict@innovation: Free your IT-Business in Africa!” compiles advanced training materials on African FOSS business models for small and medium enterprises in the IT-industry and brings together a wealth of examples and case studies of FOSS entrepreneurs from all across the African continent plus model presentations, assessment tests, exercises and assignments. Free download is available on the ict@innovation site. Balthas was also speaking on Idlelo’s panel on “Standards, Patents and Copyrights”, where he presented thoughts on the knowledge commons and copyleft licensing for open innovation (see agenda and news below). More information on ict@innovation is available at the the Africa and Open Source section of this website.

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