Transforming a Country Through Code!


In this talk, you can learn the journey of the creation of those communities, the challenges, lessons, and insights on how to transform a community in a developing nation around technology and how it can set the stage for other communities to build upon.


Hi everyone, I am Liz Parody, I am Head of Developers Relations at NodeSearch, and I'm an organizer of different tech events, conferences, and community leader in Colombia. Now let me tell you a story. In the last couple of weeks, Colombia has been facing a difficult situation, as you might have probably seen on the news, but that's nothing compared to how it used to be. When I was born, my city Medellin was the most dangerous city in the world. Today, three decades later, it's called the Silicon Valley of Latin America, the most innovative city in the world and the center of the fourth revolution. This incredible transformation was possible because of technology, community inclusion, and a lot of hard work. Now Colombia has one of the largest Spanish-speaking JavaScript communities globally, with a significant impact on the region, massive technology events, and is still growing. And it's important to discuss community topics because as Myle Boris said, one of the Node.js contributors, APIs are going to be deprecated, but being human will not. So this talk is about the journey of creating those communities, the challenges, lessons, and insights of how to transform a community in a high conflict developing nation using technology and how we can set the stage for other communities to build upon. To understand the magnitude of transformation of Colombia, it's necessary to go back in time three decades ago, the time that I was born. Medellin was considered the most dangerous city on earth in the 80s and 90s. Many of you might have probably seen Narcos, thank you Netflix for perpetuating the narco image of Colombia internationally. And even though most Colombians and I hate the series, it shows part of our history that will always be remembered. A dark time full of violence, narco, drugs, death, terrorism, and a lot of fear. Usually when we mention Colombia to the rest of the world, they think about drugs and narcos and that's because they don't know what's really happening in the country. They cannot see the bigger picture of what Colombia really is and because the stereotypes are easier. Yes, 30 years ago, Colombia was terrifying. There are some depictions of the conflict of the country from 1985 to 2010. There were more than 5 million forced displacements, more than 27,000 kidnappings, 95 terrorist attacks, and a big part of these is the things that happened in Medellin. Medellin was the epicenter of the conflict. I won't show images or going deep into this because it's too sad, but this gives you an idea of how bad it was. Just saying that it was the most dangerous place in the world would put you into context. One might think, how can a city or even a country ever recover from that? Or even more important, how is this related to Node.js or JavaScript or even technology in general? Well, this is where the power of technology and communities plays a big part. Technology was responsible for the transformation of Medellin. Many factors helped the city overcome that, including urbanism, architecture, accessibility, public transportations, and technology, mainly software. And this is where I will focus my talk. In 2011, there were no technologies communities in Colombia, no conference, no events, nothing related to technology until six individuals decided to create a community and a conference. And BogotaConf was created, a conference in the capital of the country to talk about software. There were a few hundred attendees and it was a successful conference. The conference led to the first technology meetup in the country, BogotaJS. In 2012, another community leader, after seeing what was happening in Bogota, decided to start MedellinJS, the first technology and JavaScript meetup in the city. In 2013, the team decided to create the first JSConf Colombia, and that's where the revolution started. After this, the growth of technology and communities became exponential. Around 400 people attended, and there were many great speakers, networking, amazing energy, and initiatives to create impact. After JSConf leaders in other cities wanted to be part of this revolution, and other meetups were created, including CaliJS, then other small cities started to join, like Pereira, Bocaramanga, Manizales, Quibdó, Montería, Valle del Par, Popayán, and Barranquilla. But it doesn't stop there. In 2015, some JavaScript leaders talked to the Ruby community to create a conference focused on Ruby, and RubyConf was created. We are a big group of people collaborating, networking, sharing, teaching, and learning from each other. ColombiaDev was created as the entity that groups together all the meetups and conferences. Following the Code of Conduct, always talking to account inclusion and diversity, and generating social impact by making knowledge accessible to as many Colombians and Latins as possible. Now, and a few years after the revolution started, there are 95 meetups across the country in 16 different cities. There are more than 100,000 people attending to these meetups regularly. There is more than 100,000 lives impacted by technology and communities, including me. And many people have accomplished great things, found new jobs, found new friends, and improved their careers. I linked to the list of conferences in the last couple of years, where it's created Skel.Conf, PyConf, JConf, NodeConf, React.Conf, CSSConf, GitConf, Vodafone, Vixens, and others. What happened in Medellín is magical. Most of these conferences are happening in the city. What started with six leaders, now there are hundreds of leaders organizing all these meetups and conferences all over the country. Now we have one of the largest Spanish-speaking deaf community in the world. We have Viva Platform. Today, Colombia community is recognized worldwide. This is how JSConf looks like. We also have news like this. Forget your preconceptions. Colombia is a country that has changed for the better, from The Telegraph. Medellín, Colombia, a miracle of reinvention, band The Guardian. How is Medellín a model of urban transformation and social resilience? By the World Bank. Colombia's Medellín is named the most innovative city by the BBC. And some local news talking about the fourth revolution happening in Medellín. Believe me, three years ago, the news about Colombia were completely different. Colombia also received one of the highest startup investments in the world, with $1 billion in 2019. There are some principles that need to be taken into account to build a successful community. I won't go deep into this because of the lack of time, but the principles are a code of conduct and have a mechanism to enforce it. Treat your speakers well because they will become your ambassadors. Make inclusion, accessibility, and diversity a priority. Give them scholarships and create a safe space for everyone because diverse communities are better communities and everybody should feel welcome in your event. Take first steps to build communities, even if you don't have the infrastructure and money. Get resources and be responsible with money. Make sure you can afford your event community, and that way you can legitimize your event and build trust. Leadership, start with a small and committed team. Once your event community is sustainable, you can add more people. It's a volunteer job. It's a time of work and it won't bring you money, and it's mostly unrecognized, but it's worth it. Create input in the country. With the events and community that we created, hundreds of people have traveled to Colombia for the first time just for that, and when they leave, hopefully they have learned something new and the perception of Colombia has changed. And finally, you can get involved by going, speaking, and supporting conferences and meetups in developing countries, creating a local communities or meetups, and helping others to learn and be successful programmers. What happened in Colombia was what we could call the butterfly effect. Some community leaders impacted lives of hundreds of thousands. It's in our hands to create the reality we want to experience. Let's build a better future for all. Thank you.
8 min
10 Jun, 2021

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