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A Week of Open-Source in Rwanda

The TYPO3 Association supported Daniel Homorodean and me for a week-long trip to Rwanda, where we were helping update the government of Rwanda’s open-source TYPO3 CMS infrastructure. While there, I got a taste of a new country, met a keen and new (to me) community of open-source practitioners. Most importantly, I saw first-hand how living the open-source ethos of sharing can create opportunities and make a positive difference in the world. My conclusion was a new personal commitment to mentoring others in TYPO3, and I challenge you to do the same, whatever it is you do in and with open-source technologies.

Read more about Daniel’s recent visit to CMS Africa and our plans to help make TYPO3 global. When open source communities reach out, their adoption grows.

Rwanda on TYPO3: Situation and Opportunity

Before this trip, Daniel Homorodean from the TYPO3 International Expansion committee laid more than a year of groundwork with our TYPO3 peers in Rwanda. They explored how to build local knowledge and community, to continue and expand the usage of TYPO3 CMS in Rwanda’s public and private sectors. The TYPO3 Association granted us funding for Daniel and me to travel to the capital, Kigali, for a full working week to continue the cooperation in person.

Much of the government’s online infrastructure is on TYPO3. The sites were created in the past by 3rd-party, external service providers. There was a lack of local resources to tackle updating, maintaining, and renewing their websites. This resulted in having some sites are running on unsupported versions of TYPO3.

To address this, and build local resources, we were working with local private-sector professionals to help the Rwanda Information Society Authority (RISA), part of the Ministry of Technology, and the Office of the Government Spokesperson (OGS). The team we’re collaborating with is 20 professionals strong. A couple of key elements were in focus in shaping plans:

  • The RISA was no longer willing to accept the use of older, more vulnerable versions of TYPO3 and intended to update all sites to a minimum of version 8 (supported through early 2020). About 60% of the 250+ government sector websites have been upgraded by the RISA team so far.

  • Daniel Homorodean worked with local authorities to develop an improved publishing strategy to make the properties easier to maintain and manage. Leveraging TYPO3’s multi-site capability, they can combine what are now  hundreds of websites into between one and five TYPO3 multisite installations, centrally maintained and updated by RISA on TYPO3 version 9. TYPO3 9 LTS gives the government breathing room, with security support through late 2021. 

  • Consolidating and a complete overhaul of all of the websites and their content is part of that project. The OGS team will provide much of the content and be in overall control. Individual institutions—ministries, embassies, local city halls, and so on—will publish their own content on their dedicated websites.

  • A consortium of private companies will develop the common design and branding for the project based on the winning entry of a design competition, by Awesomity Lab.

Sharing our Experience

Daniel and I traveled to Kigali to work with the team to nail down a clear strategy for achieving the ambitious goals. Collecting all those websites into just five or so and making them centrally maintained will save the government of Rwanda a lot of time and headaches when it comes to future maintenance. Now we have to get cracking! 

We were there to share our experience and practical knowledge with our peers on the team. We held a series of presentations, followed by question and answer sessions. The topics we covered were chosen democratically by the team. They included:

  • The history and future of the TYPO3 Project, including a presentation dedicated to version 9, on which we plan to build the new, consolidated instances. We also talked about the direction TYPO3 10 is taking.

  • Content management strategies and best practices, including frictionless setup for multi-tenant instances, user access permissions and security, with the central role of the OGS in mind.

  • Knowledge acquisition and certification, covering SkillDisplay and the TYPO3 Project’s official certification program.

  • Professional development environment setup and processes, introducing DDEV, system requirements, staging- and production systems, version control, Composer, automated testing and deployment, and more.

  • Introduction to the TYPO3 community and our communication tools, to get everyone to join our Slack channel.

What next? By the time we left, the whole team had joined TYPO3 Slack. The seeds of community have been planted. Government and private-sector teams are making plans to try out building a local community together to share and expand knowledge between everyone involved in the project. The new horizons opened by opportunities for professional certification, plus up-to-date workflow-tooling, were an eye-opener for many sparked keen interest.

Be a mentor

What we were able to do shows how open-source technologies and knowledge-sharing can be powerful change-agents. Thank you, Daniel, for the year of effort you put into preparing for our time there. We were able to help newly-won friends and peers take a few more steps into the open-source community and gaining more value for it for themselves and their country. My personal “What next?” comes from a refreshed sense of priorities following the hard work everyone involved put in.

Mentoring people in TYPO3 or whatever you do and use in open-source is a powerful way to create opportunities and make a positive difference in the world. I realized something this week: The Rwandan team had been all alone, on their own in their endeavor learning TYPO3 and using it in a business-relevant way. It doesn’t have to be that way. Even on Slack, as friendly as we think we are, many people new to our community won’t have the confidence to ask strangers a lot of questions. If we genuinely want them to learn more, those are the very questions we want them to ask!

This brings me to a trait our community claims to possess: we share. How about we revive the age-old tradition of mentorship? The need goes much further than Rwanda. I am quite sure we will also identify other community seedlings in other places, where we could also help. I know mentorship isn’t an easy road. It requires a strong commitment from both sides of the relationship for it to pay off. Having had the privilege of having a mentor and having been a mentor myself, I know the benefits and satisfaction first-hand … and I know the frustrations and the potential embarrassment, too.

So here is my proposal: When you feel the time is right for you, offer to be a mentor. Make yourself available. Maybe there is already someone you know. Perhaps you just see someone continually asking questions, struggling with learning TYPO3. And if you are fortunate and a little bit adventurous, you might get the chance to go to places you never imagined you would, like me! I suddenly found myself for the first time in Rwanda. The week-long visit, full of meetings and events, was exhausting, but it was all worth it. I left surprised by how much I enjoyed this intense week and proud of being a part of it. We planted a seed, I can help it sprout. And I will be back for sure, there is so much of that beautiful country I haven’t gotten to see yet!

Do you have an open-source mentoring story to tell? Share it with us! Do you see opportunities to help others with open-source? Get in touch; let’s talk!


Very interesting! Wish I had participated, I would have learnt a lot !

Well done!! We hope you'll be able to come to Zim as well once out TYPO3 community takes off. Great work :)

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