Multi-billion dollar industry with power to transform developing countries

20 January 2015

Keyboard with social media keys

The software powering YouTube and Instagram could help shape a more prosperous future for an African country as part of a project run by the University.

The free programming language Python is hugely popular around the world and is an important player in the multi-billion dollar open source software industry.

As well as Internet sites, it is very widely used in science, medicine, data analysis and infrastructure applications including air traffic control.

Now, the software's international users are being brought together in Namibia to share ideas as part of a University project which is working with communities in the country to transform lives.

Python Namibia 2015 takes place in Namibia from 2-5 February.

Organisers hope Namibia's Python users, plus around 40 students from the University of Namibia which is hosting the event, will develop the software for their own and their country's needs.

Many people believe that open-source software - which is free to use, adapt and distribute - is one key to the future well-being and prosperity of developing nations and their people.

A modern, easy-to-learn language such as Python with a huge global community and a vast range of applications is ideally suited to being part of this.

Software developer and Python Namibia organiser Daniele Procida used to work at Cardiff University's School of Medicine and still lives in Cardiff despite now working for the Swiss web agency Divio AG, which is also supporting the project.

He believes the type of freedom he enjoys to work in a different country from his employer can eventually make a real difference to Namibia.

"If, for example, a Namibian trains as a nurse and wants to bring in more money, they will have done their training in Namibia but may end up taking a job in the West," he said.

"The country will have invested in the nurse's training, but may lose out on the benefits.

"The work of software developers on the other hand can take place anywhere - unlike nurses, programmers don't need to live and work at the point of delivery.

"If we are successful in encouraging the creation of a cohort of programmers with in-demand skills, we could see Western companies employing African programmers who live and work in Africa, earning and spending in their own economies.

"It is a multi-billion dollar industry and there is a global shortage of Python programmers.

"Meanwhile, a nation's investment in open source skills and technology is one with enduring benefits for its own IT needs."

Mr Procida added Python had many possible applications in Namibia, such as being used to improve the communications infrastructure, which could bring major benefits for healthcare for example.

Python Namibia is part of The Phoenix Project, a major initiative between the University and the University of Namibia, and is the result of a collaboration between the two universities and people and organisations in the international Python community.

Professor Judith Hall, who is leading The Phoenix Project, said: "Cardiff University is working with the University of Namibia to help develop expertise in this field.

"It offers Namibia the opportunity to enter an international community of free software writing that avoids the need to buy in expensive consultants.

"It allows Namibia to develop its own talent and participate on an equal footing with international partners."