Sri Lanka and GSoC, en route to the true premise of the internet and computer science

Chris DiBona
Chris DiBona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is a great day. A pioneering advocate of open source software, Chris DiBona accoladed Sri Lanka for the contribution in GSoC and FOSS, in this interview with TechRadar/LinuxFormat. In his own words:

Every year that goes by we see more people from outside of the US take part [in GSoC]. The US still has a healthy proportion – 250 or something – but it’s amazing to see where people pop up – like Sri Lanka. Even during the civil war we still had Tamil and other Sri Lankan students taking part in the Summer of Code; it’s like, how did it transcend borders in that way in that country? And so, Sri Lanka has always been really interesting to us in ways that even India and China are not.

Here’s basically a very small nation, and if you look at it, there’s a couple of universities that really glommed onto Summer of Code as a way of expanding their curriculum. Think about that. 79 Computer Science students in a small university in a small country in the midst of a civil war, all doing remarkable work. This is the promise of the internet and computer science made flesh.

I think we should all take pride, as students, mentors, well-wishers and finally as Sri Lankans, for contributing with small steps, inspiring people around us, making a mark on the world map for a good thing! I should specially thank few people like Pradeeban Kathiravelu, Kasun Gajasinghe, Thilanka Kaushalya (from University of Moratuwa), Arunoda Susiripala (from University of Kelaniya), Buddie Kurera (from University of Peradeniya), Suranga Nath Kasthurirathne (from IIT) and many who came before them, for pioneering in spreading the word, organizing meetups and going places! AFAICR we did sessions in University of Jaffna, Pera, IESL etc and we used to hang-out in the #gsoc-lk irc channel in FreeNode too.

So let’s pat ourselves on the back once more and get motivated to do better in the coming years, not only in GSoC or Code-In, but in the open source community as well. As Sri Lankans let’s all have a greater impact on realizing “the true promise of the internet and computer science” as Chris DiBona said.


[This post was adapted from an e-mail initially sent to GSoC Sri Lanka Mailing List]

Some Sri Lanka FOSS Facts

  • Sri Lanka has a higher per-capita rate of Apache developers than any other nation on earth.
  • Sri Lanka is home to The Lanka Software Foundation (LSF) founded by Dr.Sanjiva Weerawarana, which has successfully incubated globally renowned open source projects such as Apache Axis 2 and Sahana Disaster Management Software.
  • WSO2 Inc, the open source middleware company backed by Intel Capital, is based in Sri Lanka.

Some more links – just for the kicks – [UPDATED]


Patricia Ryan: Don’t insist on English!

When a language dies, we don’t know what we loose with that language

This veteran English teacher, with over three decades of experience teaching English in Arabic countries, brings out some interesting points about tests of English language fluency being a barrier for education of non-native speakers.

But I wonder why language teachers have to be gatekeepers, when they have so many opportunities to be gate-openeres, letting the students access the wisdom of different cultures and masterpieces literature. It’s relevant for Sri Lanka as well given that few years back there was a huge debate about re-introducing English as a medium of instruction in primary and secondary public schools in Sri Lanka. (Long story short, Sri Lankans have had an education system based on Pirivenas and Buddhist temples, for over 2300 years. Later under the colonial influence, a standard system of schools in English was started in 1800s. Then, in the 1940s, national languages were made the media of instruction back again. Now what we have is a mix-up, with tertiary education mostly being done in English and some students finding it difficult to adapt.) If you are interested about English education in Sri Lanka, please read the following articles by the prominent educationist Prof. Rajiva Wijesinha.

A guide to the libuv sexism fiasco

So a pull request, involving a change in the documentation to use gender-neutral form, to libuv, (one of the libraries Node.js relies heavily upon) was rejected, applied, reverted, and re-applied over the course of two days. Things got escalated quickly and heated words were exchanged via tweets, blog posts and github comments. And now, Ben Noordhuis, one of the core contributors, has said he will likely step down from libuv and Node.js development. For some people, outcome of this whole incident is a signal for commitment to equality and inclusion of all human-kind, not only for gender-bias in STEM fields, while for others it’s just a bay area political correctness fad (as some developers call it) or an exaggeration of a simple mistake by a non-native English speaker. Nevertheless it’s interesting to observe how the collective behavior of a diverse community shapes the future of open source software amidst all this high drama. Here’s some quick links for the interested reader.