Before I "fell into" my job, I'd always seen myself as a bit of an entrepreneur. I don't mind taking risks (as long as they're semi-calculated) and i enjoy a challenge. I definitely throw myself into the deep end, and fortunately I have so far been able to tread water without drowning. However, I really feel as though i haven't yet swam. My idea for when I left Uni was to set up a company not just to "be my own boss" - but to fulfill my own aims, ideas and passions.
Now I personally believe that one needs a little experience in order to do this sort of thing - and the last 18 months with my current company have been fantastic, and I can't see them ending quite yet - and hopefully even were I to take up my pipe dream, I could allow them to be a substantial part of it.
Tonight, as the conversation continued, it re-kindled my interest in following through on my initial thoughts of setting up my own company to do what _I_ wanted to do, not what someone else wanted me to do. However, realism shows that I need to continue for a little while in my present job, in order to get the necessary funds, and experience to make good my aims.
My inspiration for my company is the ability to really "make a difference." Although this has become cliché and is seen as something available only to us teenagers/young adults in the West, I like to think I take a more realistic view of the situation. Using the growing success of open source, and the empowerment it gives its users, I would love to be able to help setup / get funding for / develop training centres across the whole of sub-saharan africa.
I don't want to pretend that I am the only person to think of this, nor that I will be the only person trying it - but there are both good economical and moral reasons to run this sort of development in Africa. The old adage "give a man a fish" is so true in this case.
I would like to now post a blog from Guido Sohne who wrote this back in 2003. I would link to it, but I would like as many people as possible to have access without just thinking it to be another link:
Technology has for millennia been transforming the capabilities of the human being in an inexorable process that is at once empowering and dehumanizing. Once we were able to speak to another person and be assured that our words and thoughts were private, intended for only those that our senses told us were nearby.
Today, we in the Third World, are being monitored and recorded without our express consent by sophisticated networks and devices that intercept international voice, email and web traffic. We have also been deprived of our ability to control who receives our information by the effects of US and European policies on data encryption.
Without economic and military power, we are compelled to accept this situation, where other nations conduct themselves to affect us in ways that are not acceptable to their own citizens. Without a vote, we have no way to influence those who determine such unjust and exploitative policies.
Those who control the world media have shown that they are willing to wage information war, a barrage of information carefully selected to promote certain goals and silence or sideline opinions and positions that are not favourable. We do not have access to these media. We are unable to tell our stories and we suffer in enforced silence. We see television shows that depict wildlife and primitive people, as if to say that is all that exists. Biased reporters tell our stories, relentlessly highlighting the negative and disavowing the positive.
We see today, conflict still broiling in Iraq against the background of an information war campaign telling people that Iraqis are now free and that the first steps towards freedom are not easy. I believe that one can only be free by choice, indeed that is to me the very definition of freedom - the ability to choose.
People come to our lands and 'discover' new medicines and chemicals, go back to their lands and patent them, only to turn around and sell it back, taking away our rights to property that was once ours, that which belonged to a community or to a whole people now belongs to new faceless and inhuman entities that we call corporations.
As people unravel the human genome, they will then start to patent and assert rights over things that once belonged to all of humanity. We, in the Third World, where life began, will be robbed of the secrets of life itself.
Things have gone too far. Societies which were built on the results of the scientific revolution, where the free and unfettered flow of information, publishing of results, replication of results and the absence of the profit motive changed the lives of billions, have now created obstacles to the flow and ownership of knowledge. Software patents, the increases in copyright term and cynical lawsuits that show complete selfish regressionary reactions to self organized people working on their own time (SCO vs. Linux) show that the ownership of knowledge will only result in the interest of the many usurped by the few.
Developing countries and activists in the developed countries alike need to realize that they have a common goal and a common enemy in the selfish and short-sighted corporations that are the next stage of the immeasurably slow, constant removal of rights, freedoms and choices that is being made possible by technology in the hands of the few.
Free software and open content have shown that there is another way, that knowledge is better shared, and that money is made from real work and not by virtue of having acquired a certain position that enables one to exploit others. In other words, free software operates by inclusion whereas the closed knowledge neo-industrial omplex operates by exclusion, leading to their profits.
Given that the centres of production and of knowledge for closed knowledge actors are almost never in the Third World, given that they provide no jobs, given that they provide no opportunities to transfer knowledge to us, given that the deck is stacked for their profit at our expense, Third World countries should completely reject intellectual property on the principle that there is no gain in it for us, on the contrary, it will cost us, directly and indirectly.
Those who do not wish to share their knowledge should keep it hidden and feast upon it. When someone else finds this knowledge they are free to do the same, or to share it with others and make it part of the commons. After all, that was the very path that they themselves took as they developed, and we should not suffer blindly for it.
We want knowledge, we want information, we want freedom. Hinder us not and aid us if you will. But dare not call yourselves civilized while we remain where we are.
I truly believe that open source can give all three: - knowledge, information and freedom. I'd love to be part of something that could help make this happen. Charity can only go so far, and relies on the goodness of other people. Were a business to attempt a similar thing, it would appeal to both peoples kindness and their greed - thus so long as it was ethically directed and managed - it could make a positive difference to so many people - both inside and outside of Africa.