Free software camp in Asia brought together non-profits and grassroots hackers
BANGALORE, INDIA, 28 January 2005
In late January, India's technology mecca Bangalore is to be 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, is being 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."
There will be participants coming in from a range of backgrounds. Sucharat "Ying" Sathapornanon from Thailand looks after IT for the Asia-Pacific Regional Resource Center for Human Rights Edcuation. says Ying: "I hope to learn more new skills, exchange tips and share experiences. Interaction and discussion between people from different cultures have enriched me a lot (in the past). I wish to gain a lot of knowledge in the global family of this camp." Umesh Pradhan comes in from Thimphu, Bhutan. Prior to launching his own software firm, he worked with the Royal Institute of Management as the training coordinator and was involved in the promotion of ICTs (information and communication technologies) there. Yee Yee Htun from Myanmar lives along the Thai-Myanmar border, and is a volunteer webmaster for AAPPB (Assistance Association for Political Prisoners-Burma).
From a range of Asian countries, NGOs and grassroots technology support professionals will come in "to learn new skills, exchange tips, and share experiences", organisers say.
FOSS gives users four freedoms -- freedom to use the software for any purpose; freedom to study how the software works; freedom to modify the software; and freedom to share the software with others. From a technical perspective, this can be used to reduce costs and hardware requirements while also improving security, reliability, performance, stability, and scalability.
From a wider philosophical perspective, FOSS can transform patterns of access, usage, control and ownership of knowledge and technologies. Globally, FOSS has grown as hundreds of thousand of programmers -professional and hobbyist- scattered across the globe collaborated to produce a unified body of knowledge without resorting to hierarchical structures and exploitative relationships. This movement is also seen by some to demonstrate how wealth can be created by entrepreneurs in the free market without using the proprietary copyright regime.
LOCALISATION, THE KEY
In Bangalore, four themes will flow throughout the event. FOSSophy for NGOs (or, why FOSS makes sense), migration and access to non-proprietary software, tools for content-building and communication, and the localisation of computing to make it relevant to countries across Asia.
Elizabeth, from East Timor, is currently doing her internship at APC member, Open Forum of Cambodia with KhmerOS (Khmer Open Source). The KhmerOs is working to localise software to Khmer, the Cambodian language. Says she: "I'm learning from them while also preparing a localization document for Tetum, one of our national language in Timor Leste." Tetum uses the Latin script with some accents, since it has words imported from Portuguese.
Localisation is an issue that many are addressing in the FOSS world, and taking computing to communities which otherwise might just be seen as an unviable market.
Javier Sola is coordinator of the KhmerOS project. He is working on a "toolkit" on how to do FOSS localization. In Javier's view, localization and making migration easy are the two "keys to FOSS adoption". In Bangalore, he regrets not being able to attend both tracks.
OVER A HUNDRED
Over a hundred participants are expected at this global meet. Together with experts and specialists, they'll look at how technology and free and open source software makes sense within the non-profit sector -- in terms of access and content.
Asia Source organisers -- the Dutch TacticalTech.org network and Mahiti.org in Bangalore -- say Asia Source will be the "first event of its kind" in the region.
Peer-learning will take top priority. Participants will look at available options, learn how to select and apply alternative technologies. They'll access skills and tools to utilise this in their daily work and there will be experts to share the skills.
Asia Source is supported by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC) together with Aspiration. Sponsors are HIVOS, the Open Society Institute, and the International Open Source Network (IOSN).
Prior to this event, similar 'source' events have taken place in South East Europe, Southern Africa and are planned in 2005 in Western Africa.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Tel: +63920 9505850
This communication is possible thanks to the collaboration of Frederick Noronha, Bytes for All, a South Asian ICT4D network with APC.