Open Source Software in the Developing World

November 17, 2005

This report details how budget-strapped organizations working in the developing world are able to use open source software to accomplish computing task that would otherwise just be too expensive.

From the introduction:

The emphasis on openness in open source software has fostered the growth of a world-wide community of developers contributing to the evolution and improvement of various software programs for use in networked servers and desktop systems ranging from operating systems and web servers, to e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets. While such a diffused structure for software development may seem chaotic, this approach is being considered as a more democratic alternative to monolithic single vendor efforts.

Interest in OSS is Likely to Grow: While ICT priorities will vary among countries, as it increases as a component of a country s development strategy, understanding OSS dynamics should also have more importance. With some discussions becoming quite passionate, decision-makers will have questions about the potential that open source software may offer, where and how it should be used, along with its potential risks.

OSS is Different from Proprietary Software: With OSS, the programming code used to create software solutions is available for inspection, modification, re-use and distribution by others. It is often assumed that open source software is free of charge. While this can be the case, OSS can be purchased for a fee as well. The concept of free, in this context, emphasizes what can be done with the source code rather than its cost. Because of its collaborative nature, the open source model lends itself to allow participants to be both producers and consumers/users of the software.

OSS Arguments Range from the Technical to the Economic: The OSS topic incorporates the concepts of community, public good, non-commercialism, ecosystems, and issues of intellectual property, copyrights and patents. Underlying much of the discussion is that 'information' in general, and 'software' as a means of delivery is unlike other goods and services. Central to the discussion are the issues of when and if information should be owned versus shared, what is the value of software, and when is it considered a commodity.

(Via infoDev: