The State of Java: Community, Part 1 - JUG-AFRICA
I was fortunate to be able to attend JavaOne this year. There I perceived a new energy, focus, and momentum within the Java community that hasn't been evident in many years. So, at JavaOne, I decided to write a series of blog posts describing what I was seeing. There's a lot to write about, and I'd like to give each element the coverage it deserves, so you can expect this to be a rather long series of blogs. Also, as JavaOne 2011 is fading into the past, and new relevant stuff is happening with each passing week, I won't limit myself to what emerged specifically from JavaOne 2011 in these posts...
Community was a central focus at JavaOne 2011, which like all previous JavaOnes was held in San Francisco, California, US. The Sunday preceding the start of JavaOne proper (keynotes, etc.) was devoted to Java User Groups. The hotels where JavaOne sessions and keynotes were held were not yet open for events other than registration, so "JUG Sunday" took place at Moscone West, about a 20 minute walk from the hotels that hosted the rest of JavaOne. My wife Dale and I walked there to attend Max Bonbhel's session titled "Running a Successful Umbrella JUG or Regional JUG."
I find it amazing to see how technology is transforming Africa. Despite difficulties from transportation to reliable electric power to internet connectivity to voice communication to unstable governments, developers are seeking to organize their efforts, through JUG-AFRICA and similar entities.
In his presentation, Max talked about the difficulties this entails. JUG-AFRICA has been in existence only for a couple years. It now has 5000 members from Java User Groups across 15 countries. Max cited some very practical problems related to organizing an umbrella JUG that spans many different nations. There's the obvious one, language. But, beyond that, he cited different cultures and cultural sensibilities. What's considered an appropriate way to act in one nation may be considered rude or worse in another country. And in Africa, where the nations have historically been more isolated from one another as well as from the more technologically advanced global community, this problem is magnified.
Another major problem: transferring money and materials between countries. JUG-AFRICA has used everything from PayPal to Western Union to bank transfers to hand-carried currency to deliver funds between members. Reliable shipping is a related problem. It's difficult to schedule in advance major events (Java 7 release celebrations, for example), if the arrival of related materials is uncertain.
Java 7 Celebration, Dakar, Senegal
JUG-AFRICA is a service organization in many ways. The lack of reliable internet access in many places across the continent, and the lack of money, limit the possibilities for people who are interested in and would like to become professional developers. JUG-AFRICA addresses these problems by creating tech labs with modern computers and software and good internet connectivity, and hosting events that offer training to new developers, leading to certification. The biggest of these events is the JCertif conference, which this year was held in Brazzaville, Congo in early September.
The last thing Max did at JavaOne was spend a few minutes chatting with me in a videotaped interview:
JCertif 2011 featured JCertif University:
JCertif is one of the first conferences in the Central Africa region to teach developers Java programming and the basics of developing on mobile platforms. JCertif offers two tracks featuring training sessions, interactive workshops and demonstrations for developers of all levels. These sessions cover Java EE6, GlassFish- HTML 5 and Android. Registration and participation are free.
Note that last sentence: all of this training is provided for free. JUG-AFRICA is a community of developers helping other developers grow -- which is helping lift an entire continent toward a better life for all of its citizens.
It turns out that Java's evolution has led it into being a platform capable of supporting the type of effort Max Bonbhel, Mamadou Lamine Ba, and other JUG-AFRICA members are leading. That's pretty remarkable! Yes, it's about software development. But it's also about making a better world for the developers, their families, their communities, nations, the entire continent. And, really, more than that: given the economic turmoil elsewhere, vibrant growth in African nations surely will benefit the entire world.
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