FOSS: It's great... but sometimes things just don't work

DHAKA, Bangladesh

Remember the old joke that the doctor's operation was a success, but the patient died? Free/Libre and Open Source Software (or Free Software Foundation ">FOSS

) is a great idea. But sometimes it just doesn't work out right. This was the cautionary message emerging from an 'open space' at the APC Regional Consultation on Source: APC">ICT

Policy in South Asia (April 19-21, 2006, Dhaka).
Remember the old joke that the doctor's operation was a success, but the patient died? Free/Libre and Open Source Software (or FOSS) is a great idea. But sometimes it just doesn't work out right. This was the cautionary message emerging from an 'open space' at the APC Regional Consultation on ICT Policy in South Asia (April 19-21, 2006, Dhaka).

It came out strongly in the field of Source: Wikipedia ">localisation

, or adapting FOSS to local language computing. Of course, these stories don't mean you shouldn't be venture into a brand of software that cares about freedom (and stops treating people like pirates). It only means you ought to be cautious, work harder, and have some smart hacks to avoid the pitfalls.

"Where are the users?" asks Ravikant of Sarai.net. After a fairly successful GNU/Linux localisation campaign in India, the groups involved are finding that there are few users even for language where localisation works. Like Hindi.

Is that because Indian techies tend to be so English-oriented anyway? Is it because the base of GNU/Linux users is currently still small?

Incidentally, IndLinux, the attempt to Indianise GNU/Linux operating systems, today works with languages like Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Punjabi, among others -- large languages having communities of speakers larger than even big European countries.

But there are still many tiny languages waiting to be localised, with no initiatives yet coming up on these fronts. One suggestion was that translating the IOSN.net's primer for localisation into local languages could take the campaign even further.

In Pakistan, work was on to build Ubuntu into Urdu.

One success story though came from Nepal, which apart from being on track, and having ambitious plans, also comes with a good packing.

Ravikant (37) came up with the idea of building bridges with between (traditionally unfriendly neighbours) India and Pakistan in terms of Urdu localisation. India lacks good Urdu fonts, it was noted.

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