Lilian Juma and Open Con

Open Con is a community that is dedicated to open data. Open to students and early career academic professionals from all around the world. Open Con is held every year in Washington DC and provides a platform for generations to learn about Open Access, Open Education and Open Data while developing critical skills.

This is not unlike what Creative Commons is attempting to achieve by making it easier to obtain fair use licenses in countries outside the USA. Creative Commons in Kenya is still a new concept that the public is yet to fully grasp; this is seemingly the case with Open Con as well.

Lilian Juma is an Open Con and Open Access advocate in Kenya. Juma (along with a hardworking team) organised Kenya’s first Open Con conference in 2015. Juma has cited how unaware Kenyans are of and towards Open Access. Juma herself accidentally stumbled upon Open Con and only got to understand the initiative more after finding their website online.

After having her application to attend the Belgium conference rejected, Juma filled in an application to host the Open Con Nairobi satellite.

It is unfortunate that in Kenya other than a majority of the population even educated individuals (inclusive of professors) have no idea of what Open Access is.

The planning of the event difficult for Juma and her team due to lack of finances. There was also a limited accessibility to scholarly articles. Scheduling time for meetings was also a hurdle Juma faced as the planning committee members’ had tight work schedules thus making most of their meetings online meetings. This also posed problems due to technical difficulties and poor internet connection.

On OCSD Net blog, Lilian Juma said this:

”The irony of the situation was not lost on us; internet connection is one of the elements and cornerstone to successfully advocate for open access anywhere, which sadly, became a major challenge during conference planning process. Our desire for a country and population knowledgeable about Open Access, Open Data (OD) and Open Educational Resources (OER) surpassed obstacles that were thrown ahead of us. This is the vision I believed in, and was confident that I had enough knowledge from my own experiences of what the lack of openness looked like to champion for the world I wanted to live in.”

Since the conference has ended Juma and her team are working on targeting undergraduate, Masters and PhD students and associations as well as non-governmental organizations and government departments. Juma wishes to engage these groups to research and share their research to help Kenya overcome its scientific and internet challenges through Open Con.


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