NGOs, CBOs, small business owners and even government are increasingly making use of Free Libre and Open Source Software.
If you still think that FLOSS is just something you do after you have brushed your teeth, you have not yet joined the ranks of those realising the benefits and potencial of Free Libre and Open Source Software (FLOSS).
Free means the software gives you freedom, but it is not necessarily always cost free. With FLOSS you can view the source code of a program and if you have the technical know-how, you can alter that code to enhance the program. With proprietary software the code is hidden. You are also allowed to copy and share Free and Open Source Software and do not need a registration code, as is the case with proprietary software.
The Free Software Movement, consisting of people who believed that if you love software you should set it free, started in the early 1980’s. It culminated in the Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985 by Richard Stallman. They are dedicated to promoting computer users’ right to use, study, copy, modify and redistribute computer programs.
Groups working on a tight budget such as non-governmental organisations, community based organisations and small businesses are increasingly making use of this type of software. Even government has realised the potencial of FLOSS, announcing in 2007 that they would migrate to Free and Open Source Software. However, they have not fully implemented the use of FLOSS yet.
Free and Open Source Software can also be used for education in resource-poor schools and by entrepreneurs trying to make a living.
Members of the Development Works team attended Joomla training conducted by the organisation FLOSSnet last week. Joomla is Free and Open Source Software used to design and manage websites.
Based on the idea that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea’ TEDAfrica is a sister conference to the TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) Conferences that are held annually in Monterey, California. These conferences are not limited to Technology, Entertainment and Design as the name suggests, but have grown to also encompass a wide variety of topics which include, science, music, the arts, politics and other global issues.
The idea to host TEDAfrica came about as a result of the success of the TEDGlobal conference that was held in Tanzania last year, due to the evident need for a platform that focused specifically on the unique and pertinent challenges that Africa faces. Therefore TEDAfrica will be held for the first time here in Cape Town, South Africa, from the 29th of September to the 1st of October 2008.
If the Africa conference is anything like its sister conference which had over 50 speakers and 1000 delegates in just 4 days, then this is an event that every great mind in Africa should be attending. Such a conference recognises that Africa has its own unique challenges that are not shared by our western counterparts and that meaningful interventions and solutions should come from within the continent itself. It therefore encourages us to take charge of our situation and take responsibility for its change and our future.
It also provides a huge opportunity for networking and it is an open space for Africans to stretch their minds, challenge the present as well as birth new and innovative ways of tackling our current challenges and even go further by suggesting strategies that will prevent future problems. It is also a good platform to recognise and celebrate the great minds Africa has, as well as our achievements thus far. Such a platform also shatters political boundaries and allows Africans a collective view of our situation and yet at the same time maintaining their own specific identity.
I hope that Africa will grab this opportunity and gain as much from it as it can offer.
Patience Mungwari (Development Works)