Baobáxia - the Galaxy of Baobab Trees
Connecting off-line Afro-Brazilian communities with free software
Baobáxia is a community-built project to connect about 200 Brazilian quilombos to assist the interchange and preservation of traditional, community-built culture.
A special challenge is found in the fact that many of these communities are located in remote areas with no access to the Internet. It is therefore imperative to be able to synchronize multimedia data offline.
Technically, the system uses git-annex to solve the challenging problem of offline distribution - but the really important part of the process is the community effort involved.
The Rede Mocambos is a network of about 200 Afro-Brazilian and indigenous communities. As a network, it is focused on creating new infrastructure and strengthening the communities through the use of free software.
Baobáxia is a system designed to unite these communities in an offline network. Each community will upload their local cultural production (in the form of documents and multimedia content) to their local node of the system and have their contributions synchronized to the rest of the network. Nodes with an internet connection can synchronize directly from other nodes on the internet, while offline communities can synchronize their contents during the frequent meetups and visits with other communities in the network.
Baobáxias purpose is to provide traditional communities with the infrastructure to create and preserve their own digital culture on their own terms. The offline distribution is very important as many of these communities will probably never have fast Internet access due to their geographical location, but the creation of a free and community operated infrastructure for sharing multimedia data may also be seen as an important alternative to centralized global monopolies as YouTube and Facebook.
The system has now been operating for about a year and currently contains 30 nodes corresponding to about 20 different local communities. The project's efforts are currently directed at consolidating the current features, planning new features for future releases and giving workshops for users and administrators in the communities.
Technically, the system is built in Python and Django, with a front end based on Java Script and uses git and git-annex to synchronize the media. The important part of the process, however, is the community building aspect. Baobáxia represents the hope for the digital future for an existing network of ~200 traditional communities which are already keen on using free software and free technology to propagate and develop their culture.