APC members see FOSS as route to building skills, sharing knowledge
GOA, INDIA, 27 February 2006
APC member-organisations, who responded to a survey, see free/libre and open source software (Free Software Foundation ">FOSS) as an opportunity to learn new skills and share knowledge. They also see non-Wikipedia ">proprietary software as an "important form of co-operation" or being capable of "reducing desktop costs".
Some 13 member-organisations - out of APC's total of 40 - who responded were already using FOSS for their servers or desktop operating systems, and are working to take it further, the APC FOSS survey found.
Based on their long-term interest in FOSS, APC member organisations and partners have formed a working group which started a dedicated discussion on FOSS and APC.
It aims at exchanging experience on FOSS usage and identify opportunities for collaborative activities. Discussions focus on issues such as experience with FOSS migration, providing FOSS to other non-profits, FOSS support models, etc.
APC Strategic Use & Capacity Building Programme (SUCB) plans to launch a new section of the APC website, featuring news and resources related to FOSS activities of the APC network. Once launched, the new section will be announced through relevant mailing lists and in the APCNews bulletin, as expressed by Karel Novotny of the SUCB programme.
In September last year, the Australia-based APC member c2o/Toy Satellite conducted the survey on FOSS among APC members.
This survey focused on experience with FOSS and possibilities of sharing this with other members; FOSS-related plans; FOSS-related policies; challenges related to the wider application of FOSS; and preferences for FOSS-related activities APC should be implementing in the future.
"The report provides useful and brief conclusions summarised at the end of each topic chapter, as well as suggestions by those who completed the survey...," said The Source: APC website">Association for Progressive Communications' Knowledge sharing projects coordinator Karel Novotny, while announcing its release.
Nine of ten who were using FOSS said they were using its solutions as their Source: TechSoup Glossary and GenderIT.org">internetbrowser and Style information: Do not use e-mail with a hyphen.
Source: Wikipedia">emailclient. Using FOSS for 'content management' (creating easy-to-update websites) was another popular choice.
There were less-than-satisfactory areas too. Less than one-in-ten FOSS users however said they had it deployed for book-keeping, an equal number for task-tracking, and 38% for "African journalists trained in how to communicate securely online" (APCNews and Toni Eliasz, 30 September 2004), Take Back the Tech! and APC Internet Rights Charter">security.
Some also reported the use of FOSS for photo-editing, desktop publishing, digital camera downloads, maintaining blogs and wikis, and promoting educational software for children.
About two-thirds of the respondents indicated that FOSS was "important or very important to their organisation's core objectives". But one-third indicated that they were unsure of this relationship, or rejected it.
Some indicated that their use of FOSS was ‘flexible’, with proprietary software being sourced for specific tasks.
Most respondents agreed that FOSS offered an "opportunity to learn or develop new skills" and "an opportunity to share knowledge or skills". Likewise, many saw FOSS as an "important form of co-operation" or being capable of "reducing desktop costs".
FOSS-related activities among APC members who responded "were not necessarily contingent on having formal policies for their implementation", the survey found.
Respondents indicated an ‘appreciable level’ of FOSS-related activity in the absence of FOSS-related policies, the study indicated.
Conclusions thrown up by the survey said FOSS implementation was largely - and effectively - guided by an appreciation of FOSS as intrinsically beneficial, and where it concurred with an organisation’s general objectives.
Courses and workshops on FOSS appeared to be major components of FOSS-related activities among respondents. Funding was nevertheless raised as an issue to support these initiatives.
Technical support, or rather the lack of it, was also raised as a limitation. It was also noted that FOSS was not always a ubiquitous choice.
While some expressed confidence in the FOSS-related knowledge of their staff, migration continued to be a challenge for others.
"FOSS implementation was often partial among staff, left to individual preferences, and flexible in relation to pragmatic needs. Implementation was often presently being developed, on a continuous basis," conclusions of the survey said.
Some ideas came up on what APC could do to promote FOSS: sharing of members' FOSS migration experiences, and the development of a FOSS-related section on the APC website.
Another idea to draw support was a technical staff exchange; although its feasibility was questioned. APC funding allocations, documentation, migration plans and the idea of a FOSS-prize had mixed support.
Also found was "substantial uncertainty" over the value of regional camps.
Meanwhile, the APC has set up an electronic mailing-list which is being used for a discussion on FOSS. More details
are available from karel @ apc.org.