Thursday, 15.15-16.45 (Balcony B)

Are interoperability and open source overrated? Courtney Roberts, Moonshot Global; Herb Caudill, DevResults; Matthew Heck, TechChange; Andy Green, Sonjara; David McCann, Digital Impact Alliance (DIAL); Laura Walker McDonald, SIMLab
This panel convenes a diverse bunch — open source evangelists, owners of proprietary ICT4D product companies, strategists, and thought leaders — -to discuss pros and cons of interoperability and open source solutions. The Digital Principles highlight both interoperability and open source as values, but are these public goods slowing us down and requiring us to implement inadequate solutions? What type of solutions will prevail and what factors are the most important for determining success and uptake?

Session Level:

Intermediate, Advanced

Session Details:

The panel will kick of with comments from the moderator to help place the discussion within the MERL Tech ecosystem and follow with self-introductions and ‘initial remarks’ from the panelists. Next, panelists will discuss common ideas on definitions of what is open source, which will help frame a Q&A period during which the moderator will facilitate contributions from panelists on the following questions:

  • How do you define success on a MERL Tech initiative? What are the most important factors required to achieve this type of success?
  • Open source is an explicit value in the Digital Principles, with a further call to “Invest in software as a public good.” and “Develop software to be open source by default with the code made available in public repositories and supported through developer communities.” What does that mean for the sustainability of the software companies that produce software?

The remainder of the session will be devoted to taking questions from the audience. We anticipate a rich discussion with many examples of real-life MERL Tech implementations.  The moderator will sum up during the last three minutes.

Session Leads:

Courtney S. Roberts, Founder, Moonshot Global Consulting LLC. Courtney has worked on some of the most innovative initiatives in global development in Digital Development, Knowledge Management and Learning, Impact Measurement, and Business Acceleration and Investment Advisory for a variety of clients, including for the Government of Gabon, Haiti, and Rwanda; The MasterCard Foundation, USAID; and the World Bank Group, to name a few. She also teaches Program Design, Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning at the American University’s Graduate School in International Service. Prior to founding Moonshot Global, Courtney worked for 10 years in a various roles for the World Bank Group’s Investment Climate Division and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. She also worked in marketing and communications on health finance projects for USAID-funded projects and as Global Emerging Markets Management Associate at Citibank in Morocco and Turkey. She has an MBA from Columbia University, an MA from Indiana University, and a BSFS from Georgetown University. More about her here, on Twitter @followcourtney or at Moonshot Global Consulting.

Herb Caudill, Founder & Chief Technology Officer, DevResults. Herb wrote the first version of DevResults in 2009. Much of that code has since been rewritten by better programmers. A data-visualization geek, a graphic designer, and a programmer, he has been building websites and software for international development organizations since 2000. Herb grew up in Panama and Ecuador, and worked in Africa for 5 years, first teaching high-school math with the Peace Corps in Gabon and Guinea, and then working on internet initiatives with United States Agency for International Development. Herb lives in Barcelona, Spain with his wife and two young boys. These days his heroes include Mike Bostock, Edward Tufte, and Idelfons Cerdà. He is currently working on language #7 (Catalan) and has been trying to learn this Prokofiev Sonata for 27 years now. He has an MBA from Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and a Bachelor of Science in Foreign Service from Baylor University. More on Herb here, on Twitter @herbcaudill ‏or at DevResults.

Matthew Heck, Lead Developer, TechChange. Matthew (BA in Political Science, Swarthmore College) began building websites around the time he learned how to type. Since his earliest endeavor with a wildly successful Harry Potter website, he has worked as a freelance developer for a number of small non-profits and has most recently turned his focus to improving online learning. While working with many open source tools like Linux, PostgreSQL, Node.js, React, WordPress, and more, Matthew leads development of TechChange’s closed source, proprietary platform. He builds new features, working closely with clients to meet real-world needs, and creates interactions to make leaning online engaging and effective. Matthew also teaches workshops for TechChange on various topics relating to the use of technology for social good and international development. More on him here on Twitter @matthewheck or at TechChange.

David McCann, Director of Technology, T4D Open Source Software Incubator & Accelerator at DIAL. David brings 10 years of experience building and managing small teams to achieve greenfield goals in both the non-profit and private sectors. Prior to working at DIAL, he spent five years creating cybersecurity products with new initiatives at Fast Orientation LLC and Hexis Cyber Solutions. At UNICEF, David built the team and technology responsible for the U-Report platform–achieving a scale of over 300,000 participants over SMS and facilitating civic engagement in Uganda –which has since been deployed to many other countries. He also served as a technical lead during the early years of Esoko Ghana, an m-Agriculture product. He holds an M.S. and B.S. in computer science with a focus in Artificial Intelligence from the Georgia Institute of Technology. More about David here or at DIAL.

Andrew Green is Co-Owner, President, CTO, & Lead Software Architect at Sonjara. He has been programming computers since he was nine years old. He has a BSc in Mathematics and Computer Science from the University of Bath, UK. He has over 18 years of professional experience developing software for a variety of industries, including international development, biometrics, online collaboration environments, web development, financial systems, and geological research. Andrew combines his deep understanding of technological systems with an understanding of customer needs spoken and unspoken. He has strong skills in determining feasible and cost effective methods of achieving high impact technological solutions, using the resources and constraints facing any industry or company. As co-owner at Sonjara, Andrew is responsible for the company’s technological direction, and is the chief architect of Sonjara’s Fakoli and Griot products. Andrew’s software experience includes work with PHP, Java, JSP, J2EE, C++, C#, Visual Basic, ASP.NET, Perl/CGI, ColdFusion, Oracle, SQL Server, MySQL, and MS Access. He also learns new technologies on an ongoing basis. More about Andrew and Sonjara here.

Laura Walker McDonald, Chief Executive Officer, the Social Impact Lab. Through the Social Impact Lab, Laura supports people and organizations around the world to use inclusive technologies to make systems and services more accessible, responsive, and resilient. Drawing on her expertise in humanitarian aid, human rights law and international development, she brings a cross-disciplinary approach to communications, innovation and information management. Before coming to SIMLab, Laura worked for the British Red Cross on international humanitarian policy and learning, focussed on quality and accountability, innovation, cash transfer programming, civil-military relations, and strategic planning. Laura holds an LL.B (Hons) in Law, French and German from the University of the West of England, Bristol, and an LL.M in International Development Law and Human Rights from Warwick University. Find more about her here, on Twitter @techladylaura or at the Social Impact Lab.