South Sudan is the world's newest country and its largest city Juba is its capital. Juba is recognised as one of the fastest growing cities in the world, and is a hotbed of competing interests - oil, banking, construction, telecommunications.
So much so, that some have questioned whether Juba has the infrastructure to maintain this rate of growth. This Friday, the #OSJUBA conference in Berlin proposes to create a new, open source vision for Juba, and some of us here at Sourcefabric have been invited to take part.
As conference director Stephen Kovats explains, "A capital city is a unique place. In the case of a new state still working to define its own cultural and societal contours, the capital city takes on an even greater symbolic – as well as pivotal function. In Juba, this is a free-for-all dominated by the interests of external powers jockeying for pole position in a potentially lucrative battle for natural resources. Having acted as guarantor for the fledgling state's viability to survive as an independent nation, South Sudan's oil reserves, fertile lands and Nile waters now become its accessible rewards."
Here are a few of my suggestions as to why open source methodologies might be beneficial to a city across all aspects of development, from power grids and sewage, to communications technology, to education and health programmes.
Open source production. Collaborative production allows participants to both take responsibility for development, but also to share the rewards. A sense of agency goes hand in hand with a sense of identity - befitting for a capital city.
Open community. For the cultural, social, political, environmental and economic aspects of development to be truly tailored to a community, development must be open. Without input from an early stage, aspects of the project vital to key members of a community might be overlooked.
Open learning. By opening up processes, more people can get involved, thus bringing in useful experience from comparable scenarios. No need to reinvent the wheel, we can learn from the successes and failures of others.
Open use. Open sourcing something means that reuse is not only likely and encouraged, but it's positively beneficial. Similar models can benefit from these developments, creating a virtuous cycle of innovation which allows each project to become orientated directly towards its community.
#OSJUBA will look at all of this and much more. "The essential characteristic of the Open Source model," says Stephen Kovats, "is one of sustainability. As economically and politically powerful tools, Open Source technologies, mobile platforms and collaborative data sourcing methodologies now have the ability to be implemented as viable alternatives to tried and often failed attempts at nation building, urban and social development."
Join HONF, Ushahidi, Edgeryders, mict, newthinking, Open Source Ecology, Tactical Technology Collective, OpenOil, Sourcefabric and many others tomorrow, either in person, via the webstream, or on twitter with the hashtag #OSJUBA.
Can a city be open sourced? Let me know what you think in the comments below.
Get our newsletter: