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Open Source Developers Are ‘Too White And Too Male’

Duncan MacRae is former editor and now a contributor to TechWeekEurope. He previously edited Computer Business Review's print/digital magazines and CBR Online, as well as Arabian Computer News in the UAE.

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An Apache Software Foundation executive has slammed white men in the Open Source community for stifling diversity among project contributors

The executive vice president of the Apache Software Foundation has urged the Open Source community to up its game when it comes to creating greater diversity among Open Source developers.

Speaking to TechWeekEurope, Bowen explained that too many Apache projects are created and dominated by white men – something he says has to change.

Project contributors

The Apache Software Foundation is an American non-profit corporation to support Apache software projects, including the Apache HTTP Server. At this year’s Apache Big Data event in Budapest, the foundation revealed where in the world its project contributors were based. Curiously, there are just two in Africa.

Apache Big Data, Budapest
Apache Big Data, Budapest

Bowen, who himself grew up in Kenya then later moved to the US, said: “I would like to see far more diversity. I would like to see far fewer projects that are ‘white men’. I would like to see more Africans involved in our projects.

Africa is just incredibly exciting right now when it comes to technology and we have just two committers in Africa and they’re both in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“We have a lot of Asian participation and we have nothing from Africa. I’m African myself and I want to see more African participation.”

Bowen also highlighted the lack of female Open Source project committers. “I also want to see more women participating,” he said. “I want to see less of us old, white guys defining who the new white guys are who join our projects.

“So that’s a big thing that’s really important to me in the coming 20 years – that we fix that.”

The change is happening in the community, he explained, but not fast enough. He also acknowledged that creating greater diversity within the community will be extremely challenging.

“Its going to be difficult to fix it because the ones who are trying to fix it are the ones who caused the problem. But, you know, we’re making slow progress. It always feels so slow and we, just a few months ago, lost Nóirín Plunkett who was one of our members.

“She was incredible, and was making great contributions in that area. Not specifically in Apache – she was an Apache member – but she was contributing to the global equality for women in Open Source. She died fairly recently and we really miss her.”

The Open Source community desperately needs more people like Nóirín, who can help to expedite a positive change, he added.

“We need more people like Nóirín to show us what we’re doing wrong because we tend to be a little bit blind to it ourselves.”

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