APC member BytesForAll’s mailing list recently played host to a strong, and at times polemical, debate on proprietary-versus-FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software). It threw up a range of issues about the role of FLOSS in the ‘developing’ countries, its role in localisation, how it competes with proprietorial software, why its benefits haven’t yet reached regions like Africa, and how diverse approaches to software could actually make a difference in the real world. BytesForAll is a South Asian voluntary network, founded along the free software principles of volunteering, but focussing on information — and how information and communication technologies could be more relevant to the common(wo)man, specially in South Asia.
BytesForAll co-founder Frederick Noronha, an active Free Software evangelist, went to Cambodia’s small town of Siem Reap. But his goal wasn’t to reach out to the splendoured Ankor Wat temple structures nearby. Rather, it was to take part in FOSSAP-II, the Free and Open Source Software Asia-Pacific Consultation 2005. FN, as he is known in the GNU/Linux circuit, brings home lessons picked up in the longish essay below and stresses the need to build links between two sets of natural allies — Free Software and not-for-profit organisations.
The Philippines is moving fast ahead in the task of building bridges between non-profits and Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). LinuxWorld Philippines, is the biggest and only nationwide Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) event in that country.
Africa Source II, an attempt to enhance Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) skills of those working with non-profits in the region will be held in early January 2006, at Kalangala Island on Lake Victoria, Uganda. This eight day hands-on workshop is aimed at helping those working with NGOs on the continent to acquire technical skills.
Why do intellectual property issues matter to civil society? Because they affect the public’s access to knowledge in the public domain and to copyrighted work, and infiltrated into the domain of food and medicine, threatening the sustainability of indigenous knowledge and biodiversity. What can be done to protect the global commons, and culture and life forms in the public domain that are the heritage of humankind? What can civil society do locally to ensure that IP legislation responds to social and cultural needs rather to the needs of international capital? These questions are looked at in the latest edition of “Chakula”, the APC Africa ICT policy newsletter.
What happens when wireless, Free Software and the internet reaches the Amazon? APC’s member in Brazil, RITS, gives an update of their project in Pará, a territory covered mostly by jungle, and the Amazon Rainforest.
Free software offers various ‘freedoms’. But in India, enthusiasts are working on a new one — the freedom to build bridges to potential partners from half-way across the globe, and facing similar developmental concerns or challenges.
APC members in Cairo, ArabDev (http://www.arabdev.org) is taking Free and Open Source Software to the disadvantaged south of Egypt. Students ask "who and how" made the software programmes. When shown a long list of names, they ask, "All these?" Thinking of programmers as normal people, not masters of some secret magical lore, could make a differnce to the thinking of these citizens of tomorrow.
Developers tell us about their favourite ActionApps-based site and the benefits for them of using APC's free software
*Oliver Zielke of Web Networks, Canada on AttavikApps, a derivation of ActionApps which allows the Inuit to publish online in their own language. *Jaime Torres of Peru on SIA an agrarian system for Peruvian farmers developed by CEPES in Lima *Sarah Escandor-Tomas on the “Voting Campaign for the Presidential Elections Centre for Migrant Advocacy” developed by WomensHub, Philippines. * And more! Audio interviews now ready to listen to.
In late January, India’s technology mecca Bangalore became the venue for an international ‘camp’ intended to promote free and open source software (FOSS) among civil society. Asia Source, as the ‘tech camp’ is called, was held from January 28 to February 4, 2005 and "hopes to bring together over a hundred people from 20 countries to increase the use and awareness of FOSS amongst the non-profit sector in South and South East Asia."