Why we organized an Open Source Day for Women (OSDW)
Code for Pakistan recently hosted Open Source day For Women at the Habib University campus in Karachi. It was a day-long workshop aimed at increasing women’s participation in the open source community. The open source community is a movement where people all over the world contribute to create and maintain open source software. It denotes software for which the original source code is made freely available and can be redistributed and modified. Through platforms like github, anyone and everyone can view open source code and make modifications to it. The more recognizable examples of open source software include Linux, Firefox and WordPress. Most of the plumbing that keeps the internet working is also run on open source software.
Why is open source important though? Why spend time and energy coding for free? If you take a superficial view, contributing to open source may even seem counter-intuitive. However, these contributions are exactly what sustain the open source community and allow any programmer to take advantage of the even increasing open source solutions others have created and made available for free. Often, people face the same problems in software development and making such solutions open source (whenever it is possible) is a great way to increase the overall productivity of the industry.
Open source software in conjunction with version control systems makes collaboration a lot more easier too. Here at CfP, we build solutions to improve and innovate in public services and for such initiatives, it’s always great to get the wider community involved. We use open source for our projects and that allows anyone to come in and view what we have designed. A solution that may have been deployed in Peshawar can then be adapted and deployed by an independent civic-hacker in Karachi. It introduces transparency to these projects as well as the source code and documentation is available for all to see. In fact, this built-in transparency is one of the major reasons why it is also one of the core CfP values.
Github profiles (where people see your open source contributions) are increasingly becoming an important part of resumes for computer science graduates. Recruiters can view the quality of your programming skills and get a more holistic snapshot of your candidacy for employment opportunities.
Women face numerous constraints launching their careers in Pakistan in the male dominated software industry. Foremost amongst them is mobility. Open source contributions are a great way to code and contribute from anywhere and create visibility around your work.
It’s also a great way to get your code “peer-reviewed” if you don’t have access to mentors. It may feel scary at first to put your code online for the entire world to see. But that’s exactly what allows other people to give you feedback on how you could have written it better.
Worldwide, only 11% of contributions made to open source software are by women. In Pakistan, the top 1,000 github profiles returned don’t include even 10 female developers. Creating awareness is the first step towards addressing this imbalance.
Keeping all of the above in mind, CfP arranged the OSDW as a day long event to spread awareness about the open source community. During the event, the participants were given an introduction to open source software and given hands-on training on how they can start contributing to open source communities (the training comprised of teaching the basic of the ‘git’ version control system). Women speakers from the industry were also invited to the event to share their professional journey and experiences of open source software development.
Code for Pakistan aims to host more of such events to introduce people to the open source community in the country.
If you’ve made it this far in the article, then you must leave really like open source! Here and here are a couple of resources that will help you in getting started on making contributions to open source.
Once you have a handle on how to make a contribution, you can take a look though the github repositories Code for Pakistan has or this issues tracker where code for America posts open issues. Happy open-sourcing