This week we attended CubaConf in beautiful La Habana. Together with an international group of technologists, academics, media producers, and organizers, we gathered to learn from Cuba’s free/libre and open source software community about how they build technology, and to explore their current opportunities and struggles in a changing environment.
It was an opportunity to step outside the Bay Area bubble and imagine alternative technological futures: an internet without imperialism, built with socialized network infrastructure, and valuing community over corporate interests. There were excellent talks on Making Money with Open Source, Fighting Cyber Dystopia with Tech Solidarity, the Infrastructure of the Commons, and many more interesting discussions conducted off the record.
I presented a talk on Open Source Business Models in the unconference session which was well attended by about twenty folks. I showed examples from my experience in doing international custom development, providing consulting and hosting for open source tools, and finding external institutional support. I showed these models strengths and weaknesses, and asked how they could be applicable to the Cuban context. A lively question period followed, which I was only half able to facilitate in Spanish, but it seemed more helpful for folks to discuss with each other than with me. The end result seemed to be that many of my imagined routes for support were not possible, but that other creative approaches might be.
Afterwards, Aliuska Nieblas from cuban.engineer invited us to see her workspace and meet her team of more than a dozen programmers. It was great to see what she’s built, and I look forward to returning to see how the whole community has grown in the next year.