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Software event ‘success story’

15 February 2017

Python software development

Cardiff University is encouraging a new generation of programmers in southern Africa to embrace a multi-billion pound industry that helps power major web-based brands.

The programming language Python is used around the world by the likes of Google, YouTube, Dropbox and Instagram.

Now an annual Python event in Namibia supported by Cardiff University’s Phoenix Project and the University of Namibia (UNAM) is inspiring others in Africa to explore its potential.

The first Python convention took place in Zimbabwe in November 2016 after organisers got the idea from attending Namibia’s annual gathering.

'A fantastic success story'

Dr Vincent Knight, one of the PyCon Namibia organisers from Cardiff University’s School of Mathematics, said: “When you start to see the community building it’s great. PyCon Zimbabwe is such a fantastic success story.

“Two people from Zimbabwe took a bus to PyCon Namibia and that’s how they got the idea for their own event. They crowdsourced it for the required funding from within the Python community..."

“Ultimately from a selfish point of view, it’s not just about what Python can do for Namibia and Africa, because once we have diversity then everyone wins.”

Dr Vincent Knight Senior Lecturer

The next PyCon Namibia, which started in 2015, runs at the Namibia Institute of Public Administration and Management in Windhoek from 21-23 February.

It features talks, workshops and networking, and is aimed at professionals, scientists, academics, students and hobbyists.

While Cardiff University and UNAM are heavily involved in the event, PyCon Namibia 2017 is being run by the Python Namibia Society - formed in the wake of the 2015 convention - for the second time.

At the forefront of developing open source software

Hands typing on a keyboard

Dr Knight hopes that African programmers will one day be at the forefront of developing open source software such as Python, which is free to use, adapt and distribute.

“You can make Python your own and make it what you want it to be rather than being told by a commercial company,” he said.

“That is particularly relevant to developing countries because quite often they’re being told the software to use by the West and that might not be the software that they need..."

“You can have software by Namibian for Namibians, by Africans for Africans.”

Dr Vincent Knight Senior Lecturer

Cardiff University’s Phoenix Project, which supports the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, is a mutually beneficial collaboration between the University and UNAM.

It is one of the University’s flagship engagement projects, otherwise known as the Transforming Communities programme, which work with communities in Cardiff, Wales and beyond in areas including health, education and wellbeing.

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