GOA, India, 02 April 2007
APC member in Croatia, ZaMirNET, has joined an information and communication technologies (ICT) industrial cluster working on free and open source software (FOSS).
The Croatian Association of Employers’ centre for economic clusters has turned the software industry of Croatia upside down. It is going progressive in that it recently initiated the formation of a cluster of ICT companies working with FOSS. in collaboration with the local development agency AZRA and an IT firm from Northern Croatia called Protenus.
"ZaMir was invited to join early on. We went for it in the hope that our perspective on free software will shake up the so-called cluster," said ZaMirNET’s Danijela Babic. There have been three meetings so far, and, as of now, only a few companies have joined this initiative. ZaMirNET (or, ForPeaceNET in English) itself is a Zagreb-based non-governmental organisation working in the field of ICT. It functions as a citizen association dedicated towards civil society development, promoting the culture of peace and the idea of sustainable development in Croatia and the region.
"By the end of this year, the cluster is expected to be registered as a legal entity and be made autonomous. We, from ZaMir, took on some responsibilities within the cluster being formed and intend to invite other relevant NGOs and people from academia to join," said Babic.
"We think that a dialogue among different actors is necessary here. ZaMir suggested that in the cluster, we organise a two-day workshop to discuss what FOSS is or which definition we would use in cluster," she told APCNews.
Their plans are to invite people from overseas for this proposed workshop. This will depend on the availability of funds.
As it is the case in most countries, the big players in the information technology space in Croatia are those selling hardware or re-selling Microsoft products. Most FOSS-focussed companies, on the other hand, tend to be small.
The challenge for Croatia, as seen by ZaMirNET, is to get the members focussed on issues like cluster planning "since their human resources are limited". This notwithstanding, the FOSS cluster intends to "get a larger percentage of the market in Croatia," said and enthusiastic Babic.
The idea of a possible 10% market-share is one that appeals to cluster members. They also would like to work on standards and acceptable quality of FOSS products "to gain trust with their clients and to protect them," ZaMirNET’s director said.
Likewise, cluster members think that consulting in strategic technology planning is important too, since it would help clients to gain control over quality of suppliers’ services.
One priority area for the still-in-formation cluster is to work on promoting FOSS with the public administration of the small European republic, located at the crossroads of the Mediterranean and Central Europe. One for this could take is by monitoring public procurement.
Government procurement of software is often a sticky issue, which affects the free and open source software sector severely. Official procurement often tends to be anti-competitive, as it prefers specific vendors rather than providing for full competition based on functional specifications and open standards.
Analysts have pointed out that this has also led to a situation where governments are "locked in" to specific technologies, and they find it hard to change even if they want to. "I believe the cluster will follow the recommendations of the National Open Source Software policy developed by Croatia’s e-government administrative office eCroatia,” said Babic.