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Re: LibreFaso - introduction

Hi LibreFaso,

Indeed this is a noble and an interesting project to spread the Libre gospel to developing countries. I just want to highlight some of the
challenges one might run into, although they are not that big.

Talking from my experience here in Zimbabwe, for most blind people, whether students or professionals, their interaction with computers is through Windows. Meaning that their first contact with a computer will likely be via a training centre or a school. These schools run some version of Windows because they think the rest of the world revolves around knowing Windows. In fact, you will be shocked to find that some of their teachers may only think of a computer, and not think about
whether it is Windows or Linux powering that machine.

The point is: the overall goal of a blind person learning to use a
computer here is to participate in the job market or learning
environment with sighted peers. As a result, learning to use a
screenreader like JAWS or NVDA along with running related applications may be the end goal. Once someone is able to do that, then he or she feels that they are competent to participate in the job market with

The appeal of NVDA at first had to do with its cost: it is free to get from the Internet as compared to JAWS which most people will just crack
to use.

So in your mission in Burkina Fasso, I think it may be prudent to bring along the teachers into your LibreFaso Project. Are the teachers or
trainers sold on the idea of Free Software? Do they understand the
difference between proprietary and Open Source platforms? Do they
understand the setbacks with proprietary applications? In my opinion, it is difficult to work with these blind and visually impaired students
unless their instructors and teachers are fully persuaded.

The other major concern I often come across is whether working with a platform like Linux they are able to exchange data with their sighted peers. This is a critical consideration since part of their integration exercises involves exchanging information with friends, workmates and
family members.

The way I do it is that I take advantage of the ignorance of most people in the society around: you can simply give him or her a computer running Linux with a GUI interface. They may not know which operating system is
running, because they often do not care in the first place.

I am just highlighting some of these issues because they have a bearing on the success of your mission. You will find that some issues that bother you there in the West may not matter very much in developing countries. One of these is that of free software versus proprietary. As some of these students' dreams is to work there in the future, they may find the lure of big tech irresistible: for instance, knowing or being certified as a Microsoft engineer makes them more marketable abroad. You will find that whereas privacy concerns may be topical, here they are
not. There are other issues that people  find important.

However, what you are doing is good. For my students, they often
appreciate free software after they are comfortable using it.

I am sorry about your internet woes and the hacking. Most of the time,
we rarely trust local hosting companies, so people often look for
reliable hosts in Western countries such as UK or USA. Cases of banks being taken offline were common at sometime in the past. So in the end,
you had to see even our major ISPs and hosting companies telling
potential customers of their hosting machines being in South Africa,
United Kingdom or United States.

Anyway, be blessed,


On Sun, Mar 6, 2022 at 02:48 LibreFaso <LibreFaso@protonmail.com> wrote:
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Hi all.

We're (collectively) a small team trying to put into effect the LibreFaso project, which quite evolved with time. The original idea was to pay tuitions to students from poor backgrounds in Burkina Faso in exchange for contributions to Free Software and culture. Any people interested can follow it on gemini://librefaso.pollux.casa/ or the http mirror https://librefaso.pollux.casa/ The regular website, umanis.bf/libre, which had an English section (still a stub though) has been attacked due to poor security in the management of its hosting, and will be online again one day in the future I guess. Due to my own bad practice, I have no backup of the English section alas, so it'll have to be redone entirely (one day in the future, probably). Note that I tried to make the original website (the one which was attacked) somewhat accessible, but it was still a work in progress (I'm alone to work on the website). I suppose that the Gemini capsule is entirely accessible, but I'm not very knowledgeable about it (nor is anybody in the current team).

I am (personally) the internet-facing part of the project, for now at least. I know little about computer accessibility, but have been following online discussions about it and discussed with some of the people responsible for
the creation of hypra.fr.

The Burkinabe part of the project has its office in Gounghin (a neighborhood in the country's capital, Ouagadougou), near the siege of the ABPAM (Association Burkinabé des Personnes Aveugles et Malvoyantes) and they know some people there, so I went for one preliminary visit to the ABPAM to talk to them about Free Software, and the visit went well, so an official meeting with the rest of the staff is scheduled next week.

The ABPAM care for blind children (and also for deaf ones since they put one blind in tandem with one deaf in order to allow the tandem to be autonomous) : they arrange for the childrens' registration in regular schools, arrange hosting in families around the association's center, and feed the kids in a cantina inside the center. They also have a computer room inside the center (I'm supposed to visit it soon, haven't seen it yet).

The original idea of the LibreFaso project was to pay tuition to students in exchange for free software (and free culture) contributions. But we are thinking of reorienting at least part of it towards high schoolers (with obviously lower expectations for the contributions).

The ABPAM pays partial tuition to the schools that accept blind and deaf children, according to their possibilities, but childrens' families have to pay around 50 or 100 euro a year, which not every family can afford.

So there's definitely a possibility of having children who have been so far unable to pay tuition integrated in the LibreFaso program, and the ABPAM is interested in that, though we still have to discuss the exact terms.

Contributions expected from these kids have to not be a burden to them, and be oriented towards helping the kids acquire autonomy.

Making them playtesting games is probably a good way to do that, at least for the kids interested in it, and even if the whole "contributions program" shouldn't be limited to that.

Have them field-test new versions of accessibility softwares is also something we'd like to try.

We had the surprise yesterday to see around 20 blind or visually impaired kids coming to our viewing of Thierry Bayoud's documentary about Free Software, "LoL" - we had invited the teachers, but they sent the kids

I explained to the kids (well, high schoolers, some were kids but some were probably young adults) that the movie was mostly interviews, so maybe they could still get something out of it, and after discussion among themselves they decided to stay and watch - err, listen to - the movie.

Before the movie I explained why I believe Free Software is particularly important for Burkina Faso and especially for people with impairment, giving the example of the localization of speech synthesis softwares : with Orca (or any other free software for speech synthesis¹), they have the right to produce a version in their local languages, be it Mooré or Fulfulde or Bamanan or whatever.

They were very interested at the end of the movie (well, the younger ones slept, but many of the older ones asked many questions and volunteered for interviews) to start contributing (though they're probably still fuzzy on what it means - I explained that there are coding contributions but also non-coding ones, like for example to build a speech synthesis in Mooré we would need to have people pronounce the words).

At least four of them showed deep interest in working on games (it was intended to be next year, with tuition-getting kids, but if some of the already scholarized kids want to start work now, I guess we'll have to find a way to start earlier), and I know from the ABPAM staff that they (not these four specifically, the blind kids in general) are quite good with computers and highly motivated.

Teaching some introduction to programming classes is in the roadmap (though not funded yet) so we could probably start slowly but steadily soon. I tried my best to explain both that this would be possible to do and that it would mean real work for many months or years, but apparently this didn't deter them - time will tell if this was bravado or genuine confidence.

Note that I'm not a programmer myself but the intended² teacher (if the ABPAM administration agrees with the idea, of course) seems quite competent (that's what other people tell me and the general impression he gave me, but I don't have the level to judge his code) and is highly motivated too.

¹ They use NVDA now, which I just checked is free software.
Also, I gave the localization of speech synthesis as an example because the morning I had a meeting with a local linguist who agreed to help us develop a Mooré (and probably Bamanaan an Fulfulde) version of Common Voice, so actually helping the kids develop a local language version of speech synthesis is definitely a possibility. We'd be very grateful if someone could provide technical help with that though, since no one in the team has real knowledge of speech synthesis softwares.

² And currently unfunded, but he volunteered to organize Linux clubs, so we'll have to see how to manage the situation - I don't want to surcharge him with unpaid work either, he has his own software company to run.

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Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.
- Plato (427-347 B.C.)

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