A while ago I was listening to old Agile Toolkit podcasts. I came across a interview with Mike Hill from 2005 where he plugged the Coders Without Borders project. Without getting into details the project is basically a version of the Doctors Without Borders concept. For many years I have wanted to do something along the lines of this idea, I have had many ideas about refurbishing computers, installing Linux on them and sending them to people who might need them but can't afford them. This idea is however very hard to implement because of the transportation costs. However the basic idea of Coders Without Borders would be to write software, software has no transportation costs and can easily be sent anywhere in the world and even deployed from the comfort of your own home.
I promptly wrote Mike Hill an e-mail asking about the project status and how one might get involved. Unfortunately Mike didn't share my newfound enthusiasm for his project and he never got around to answering my mail. What I understood from browsing Anarchy Creek the project is still in a planning state and Mike is working actively to get something going. Looking back I'm somewhat glad Mike didn't come around to answering my mail. I think me and Mike have different ideas about implementing the same vision. I think Mike's ambitions with his project are a bit too high; he has restricted not only what should be developed but also how. Mike explains all of this in the interview he gave for Agile Toolkit so there is no point of echoing his thoughts.
My implementation of the idea is much freer with lesser restrictions than Mikes. I think we could (and should) develop software for developing countries but also for organization that work with aid in such countries, organizations like the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders. I really don't see any limitations to this idea, the only rule I would like to enforce is that all the software developed has to be published under GPL. Unlike Doctors Without Borders we can do change with almost no sacrifice. We do not have to leave or homes or quit our day jobs to help, we can program a few hours every week from the comfort of our own home. Think of all those lost hours you spent on pet projects that didn't result in anything, you could have spent those hours on developing software that could potentially save lives (or at least help people).
I have started a
wiki for my version of coders without borders and I invite everyone to drop by and contribute so that the idea might crystallize into something we might work with. I will start looking for projects as soon as I have 3 other people that are willing to work with me on this. One of my close friends has already promised me he is on board, so if we can only get 2 more I will actively start looking for projects we may work on. The primary source of information in the future will be the wiki, don't be shy to submit your ideas about the project. The focus right now is on getting the ball rolling, getting people involved and starting to actually do something as soon as possible. I will give this project 3 months, if we haven't started working on something substantial by then I will kill the project.
The ball is rolling!