By Nana Appiah Acquaye, Accra, Ghana
In a quiet environment in the heart of the capital, Accra, lives a 21-year-old software and web developer, Raindolf Owusu, who has just launched a new Anansi Operating System, patronised not only in Ghana but also overseas. Biztechafrica caught up with him to learn more.
BTA: Describe the software – what does it do, and who is it targeted at?
RO: Anansi Operating System is an Open Suse 12.1 clone OS we developed on top of the linux kernel which re-defines the unix desktop user experience. It is a general purpose operating system from enterprise to entertainment purpose. It is free and you don’t have to buy Office (Word, Power-point, Excel etc.) separately. It comes with Libre Office preinstalled. (Saved ~ $200) You are free from Viruses so you don’t have to buy another upgrade of Norton or any other Antivirus software. (Saved ~ $75)
BTA: What prompted you to create this software – was there a gap in the market for it?
RO: I am a strong advocate of free and open source software. I realized that proprietary operating systems are being entrenched in our society. Companies and the government spend so much money on paying for licenses for this software, whereas that money could be used to improve other sectors like education. Proprietary software may contain so many bugs and also can easily be attacked by viruses and malicious software. I believe that the way forward for advancement in technology is the collaborative use of open source technologies.
Africa is on the move, and software and technologies are a powerful tool for boosting economic growth and poverty reduction. There is always a gap in the market for a great innovative product. After facebook and twitter, everyone thought there was no gap for any new social network but Google plus and pinterest proved otherwise.
BTA: How far advanced is development on your new software?
RO: It is already in the market. We launched it exactly two weeks ago and it has had over 2314 downloads on my server. www.oasiswebsoft.com
The open source community around the world have created a torrent file for the OS and it has been downloaded more 2370 times, making a total of 4684 downloads and still counting. http://www.anansios.oasiswebsoft.com/
BTA: Is there anything similar on the market already? If so, what makes this different?
RO: There are so many Linux distributions including Ubuntu, Fedora and Finnix. Anansi has a Gnome 3 desktop environment and we have embedded all the basic software and system wares that will enhance your desktop connectivity examples are wine-devel package, apache2 package, audacity package, libreoffice-base package, anansi softwares, netbeans-javaparser package, plus many more.
BTA: Who designed it?
RO: I built it with my colleagues from my university, Aaron Nii Adom Nathan and Jeffery Aboagye-Asare. We are now third year university students studying Information technology. We are Open Source Software Developers with proven track record of successful projects, like Anansi Web Browser.
We are capable of working independently and also do well with a distributed team. Also, we possess the ability to work on all the states of software development process from requirements to final deployment. We write code in so many programming languages including Java,C++,C,python,php and many more. The other software we embedded in the OS are from open source developers from around the world.
BTA: What were the biggest challenges on the way to achieving this new product?
RO: Funding. We spent so much money trying to secure an unlimited server to host the OS for downloads. Most of our programming skills are self-taught but our biggest obstacle we faced was not having an expert to physically train us with some of the technologies we were working with.
We did a lot of learning online but it would have been even better if we had a technical person do that in front of us so that we could have a Q and A session.
BTA: Where do you see Ghana’s software development sector 5 years from now?
RO: 5 years from now 80% of software used by Ghanaians will be built by Ghanaians or Africans. The software industry is growing at a fast pace and everyone is getting involved.
BTA: What interventions would help the sector grow?
RO: 1.Attention and investments from the Government and venture capitalists.
2.Collaborative software developments will also boost the tech scene in Ghana. You will realize that there are so many developers and startups building similar apps instead of coming together in the spirit of free and open source development to build one great app.
BTA: What would your advice be to other aspiring entrepreneurs in Ghana’s and Africa’s software market?
RO: Always ask God first to direct your path, look for a relevant problem around you, find the right tools and technology to build the solutions. There is so much relevant data made available online to make your work easy. Use these technologies and don’t limit yourself creatively.