New Civilization News: Africa: Open Source the key to the future    
 Africa: Open Source the key to the future
picture25 Jun 2004 @ 05:11, by ashanti

Open source, and open access are the keys to unlocking the financial barriers to bridging the digital divide. An exciting groundswell movement is developing. From the Mail and Guardian:
"Something pretty revolutionary is going down in a dusty patch of Limpopo province. It involves billionaire and Africa’s first astronaut Mark Shuttleworth, a multi-national technology company and the government.

Shuttleworth is so passionate about it, he says it could rocket South Africa into the future: “We are on the cusp of a new era. This is the future of IT.”

He’s talking about open source software -- a revolutionary movement and philosophy that stands up to the likes of Microsoft to ensure computer programmes, such as word processors or spreadsheets, can be used by you, shared with others, and even modified at no cost.....

...At the launch at the Mogalakwena HP i-community centre in Limpopo province on Thursday, Shuttleworth emphasised that if South Africa is to become a world leader, improve the lives of its people and focus on skills development, then open source is the key.

He says open source software is critical to the development of Africa and other developing countries because the flow of information and knowledge is not limited by the software you can afford.....

...It appears the South African government and Shuttleworth are reading from the same word processor. The government agrees with Shuttleworth to such an extent that it has formulated a policy ensuring that open source software is the preferred option for government. The government has recognised the pivotal role that open source plays in economic development and skills creation in the country...."


Full text of the article can be found at the link to the Mail and Guardian cited above.

A parallel devlopment is the groundswell movement towards open access, especially in scholarly publishing. For too long, access to e-journals has been monopolized by corporate interests and has created an "information apartheid" that has deprived millions of people access to high quality, peer reviewed research. The Budapest Open Access Initiative is spreading the word about open access publishing. Researchers are encouraged to publish their material online so everyone can access it, not only the wealthy. A software package is provided so that e-repositories can be set up, and items are retrievable due to the use of metadata harvesting technology. The Open Archives initiative gives practical guidelines.

Yes, everything is indeed, opening up! And therein lies the hope for Africa's future.


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