On September 14th, 2023, our dedicated Project Tech4Dev team had the privilege of participating as a partner in the Oasis Summit held in Bangalore. This exceptional event showcasing the Open Source Alliance for Social Impact and Sustainability (OASIS), served as a vibrant hub for a diverse community comprising NGOs, tech enthusiasts and advocates for social change. The day unfurled with a harmonious blend of profound exchanges, enlightening dialogues and promising prospects. The summit unfolded at the Bangalore International Centre, with the venue itself augmenting the event’s ambience.
Our day commenced with keen attention to a panel discussion featuring luminaries from the industry, setting an inspiring tone for the day ahead. A standout moment at the Oasis Summit was an unscripted panel conversation featuring Donald Lobo, the founder of Project Tech4Dev, Kuldeep Dantewadia, the founder of Reap Benefit and Venkatesh Hariharan, the Public Policy Advisor of FOSS United. Their candid insights, shared openly with the entire audience, provided invaluable perspectives on the industry’s evolving landscape. Numerous other panel discussions happened parallelly at various venues as breakout sessions.
During the event, questions arose regarding the implications of the new Digital Privacy and Data Protection Bill, 2023, on Glific. Questions about the changes needed in the platform as a ‘data processor’ and data protection considerations that NGOs must navigate was discussed. This emphasized the ongoing need for heightened awareness of legal and compliance matters.
Engaging with a diverse array of team members from NGOs, corporate CSR initiatives and the open-source community provided us with a profound sense of the overarching mission uniting us all. Our focus shifted from individual organizational goals to broader, ecosystem-wide aspirations, underscoring our collective commitment to leveraging technology for social impact.
Noteworthy was our insightful exchange with Urvashi and Lobo from Digital Futures Lab. Our discussion revolved around guiding Myna Mahila in conducting smaller-scale experiments and positioning Tech4Dev as a leader in assisting grantees of the Gates Foundation in the LLM cohort. This exemplified the event’s collaborative ethos, where ideas and strategies flowed freely.
At our pop-up stalls—one for Glific and another for Dalgo—our team members played pivotal roles in fostering meaningful interactions. Creating a friendly and approachable atmosphere at the stall was a key success factor. It made visitors feel at home and encouraged them to engage in meaningful discussions. Effectively conveying Glific’s perspective to individuals from diverse backgrounds, age groups and life experiences presented a gratifying challenge that our team adeptly handled. Collecting contact details from interested individuals was a proactive step, ensuring follow-ups and potential partnerships.
Several other pop-up stalls showcased various open-source solutions, including Jugalbandi from OpenNyAI (integrated into Glific for GPT Integration), ERPNext products for Donor and Volunteer management, Bahmini from Thoughtworks, Kobo Toolbox, Metabase, Chitralekha by AI4Bharat and PlanetRead. These stalls attracted numerous inquiries, primarily from interested NGOs, open-source enthusiasts and contributors, highlighting the event’s appeal to a diverse audience eager to explore these offerings.
In reflecting on our participation at the Oasis Summit, several key insights have emerged. The landscape of No Code/Low Code solutions has clearly matured, providing us with highly usable and customizable tools. Embracing cost-effective and sustainable solutions is paramount, as it significantly reduces the burden of maintenance and technological complexity.
Conversations at the stalls yielded valuable insights. To enhance our presence in future exhibitions, we prioritized the improvement of collateral materials and videos. We recognized the need to prominently showcase our dashboard and data visualization capabilities to effectively demonstrate Glific’s prowess. Additionally, enhancing the product demonstration process for hands-on learning emerged as a critical goal to help prospective users fully grasp Glific’s potential. An important question arose during the event regarding the feasibility of offering a free trial period, possibly spanning 7 or 14 days, to allow interested parties to thoroughly explore Glific’s functionality. This inquiry underscored the significance of accessible trial options in attracting potential users, emphasizing the value of providing a usable version of the product for comprehensive exploration, as opposed to a one-way demonstration.
Building Momentum: What Lies Ahead
Looking ahead, Oasis holds significant promise and we believe that these potential next steps can greatly enrich the Oasis summit and the community. Suggestions include establishing city-wise cohorts, recurring events and webinars to foster networking. Building a vibrant community is an ongoing effort, where platforms like Discord and other community-building methods could play a pivotal role. Additionally, the consideration of capacity-building workshops, training sessions and skill development programs is on the horizon, aimed at empowering members of the Oasis community.
Moreover, there is the envisioning of creating an open-source software catalog to assist individuals and organizations in discovering the right solutions for their specific needs. Organizing hackathons and competitive events can serve as effective means to attract more talent and drive innovation within the community. Further, exploring the establishment of grant programs or connections with existing ones may provide essential financial support for projects aligned with OASIS’s mission. The proposal of conducting impact assessments to showcase the tangible outcomes of initiatives developed within or in collaboration with Oasis could highlight the alliance’s positive contributions. In addition, diversifying funding sources is a strategic move to reduce dependence on a limited number of financial backers. Lastly, the consideration of establishing feedback loops is vital to facilitate ongoing improvements and responsiveness to community needs, ensuring that Oasis thrives in its mission.
In conclusion, our experience at the Oasis Summit showcased our dedication to bridging the technology gap in NGOs. Our interactions, achievements and reflections exemplify the collaborative spirit of the event and our commitment to leveraging open-source solutions to drive social impact and sustainability. Building connections with existing organizations and many more new ones underscored the event’s significance in fostering meaningful collaborations and partnerships. As one panel discussion aptly highlighted, the optimal solution for an NGO need not always be open source. Rather, the paramount focus should be on selecting products or solutions that cost-effectively address specific needs without necessitating an extensive maintenance team.
In the realm of exploration and experimentation, organizations have been engaging with social development entities and entrepreneurs, immersing themselves in hands-on volunteering and deep dives into the challenges they face. However, amidst these endeavors, they’ve also encountered their fair share of failures. One crucial lesson learned is that technology cannot simply be bestowed; it’s the understanding and capacity-building that take precedence over software.
As NGOs navigate the complexities of pro-bono work, they often grapple with the ever-expanding scope-creep and a multitude of requirements. These organizations face the challenge of articulating their problems effectively, seeking meaningful tech solutions without falling prey to the allure of techno-silver bullets or the “app-first” perspective. Within this intricate landscape, we have come to realize that the heart of success lies in fostering a sense of community and collaboration, echoing the core principles of Free and Open Source Software. At its heart, the essence of FOSS is community and these organizations are living embodiments of that collaborative spirit.