Afronaut at DI2011

He’s floated among the stars, but these days Mark Shuttleworth is shaping future interfaces in the free operating system Ubuntu.

Mark Shuttleworth is an African entrepreneur with a love of technology, innovation, change and space flight. In 2002 Shuttleworth flew in space as a cosmonaut member of the crew of Soyuz mission TM34 to the International Space Station, the only African to date to have done this.

He once studied finance and information technology at the University of Cape Town, going on to found Thawte, a company specialising in digital certificates and cryptography. After selling Thawte in 1999, Shuttleworth founded HBD Venture Capital and the Shuttleworth Foundation, a non-profit organisation that accelerates social innovation in Africa with a particular focus on education.

Today Shuttleworth is the head of product strategy and design at Canonical Ltd, the company behind the Ubuntu open source operating system that’s bringing Linux to everyday users who want a smooth, simple but complete replacement for Windows and Office. At Canonical they build many of the unique elements of Ubuntu for desktop, cloud and server deployments

Firm in his belief that free software can become the de facto way the world experiences software, Shuttleworth is passionate about the triple thrusts of cadence, design and quality in open source. He currently works to incorporate design thinking into the open source process, understanding that "the combination of creativity and discipline offer a path to smarter, cleaner living".

When he’s not jetting off into space or busy at Canonical, Shuttleworth:

  • Spends most of his design energy on Unity, the unique interface that Canonical built for netbooks with Ubuntu.
  • Brings a design ethic to the free-wheeling world of code sourcery, a challenge he relishes.
  • Is an active member of the Ubuntu community, working to create a universal, freely available high quality desktop software environment for everyone.
  • Shared his experience and excitement about science, mathematics and technology with more than 100 000 pupils across South Africa.
  • Has spawned a variety of initiatives through his HIP2B2 brand, all of which aim to make mathematics and science sexy to pupils who are choosing their subjects for high school.
  • Tends to focus on catching up with the world of technology, particularly software and the web, in the search for new ideas and opportunities.
  • Likes, among many other things, daydreaming, coming home, Sinatra, sundowners, flirting, string theory, particle physics, Linux, travel, lime marmalade, Mozilla, body shots, the African bush, fancy dress, the International Space Station, artificial intelligence and Wikipedia.
  • Doesn’t care much for admin, legalese, running, wet grey winters, salary negotiations and public speaking.

Mark Shuttleworth will be speaking at the 2011 Design Indaba Conference from 23 to 25 February

Watch the Talk with Mark Shuttleworth