January 2007

SMEs in the IT industry learn about FOSS

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Over 50 participants from SouthEast Asian countries explored the chances for economic and social development through Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) at the “First FOSS@Work International Conference-Workshop for Small-to-Medium Enterprises (SME) in the 7I.T. Industry”, held at the Heritage Hotel Manila, Philippines from November 12th to 15th, 2006.

In three days of high powered trainings, IT managers and decision makers of SMEs discussed with a range of international speakers, how FOSS can add value to their current business operations as well as allow them to enhance their network. Discussions ranged from IT management, FOSS architecture and community management skills, software development to secure wireless networks.

InWEnt Capacity Building Inter-national, Germany, UNDP-Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP) and the University of the Philippines, Manila jointly organised the event through the assistance of the UNDP International Open Source Network ASEAN+3 node.

The great interest of participants and media in foss@Work proved a growing demand for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) among businesses in the region and potential benefits such as legal and affordable software solutions in local languages for SMEs in the region.  Industry sources consider widespread FOSS use would drastically reduce software piracy as the Philippines ranks among the 10 highest in the region with a rate of 71 percent as of 2005 study findings by the International Data Corporation (IDC), the information technology (IT) industry's leading global market research and forecasting firm.

Foss@Work

Keynote speaker of foss@Work was Commissioner Emmanuel Lallana from the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) of the Philippines. In his speech, Lallana revealed how his work in CICT Human Capital Development Group has expanded the market for ICT training especially in the remote areas of the country. Of particular importance was his proposal that state universities and colleges (SUCs) may serve as technical support hubs for SMEs who may choose to build their businesses around FOSS tools. Guest speaker Rep. Teodoro Casino reiterated the importance of his FOSS Bill now filed in the House of Representatives. He underlined the potential of FOSS for local and regional software development, the creation of a service industry and social justice.

Shahid Akhtar of UNDP APDIP underlined the value of SMEs in addressing the poverty issues of the region and how FOSS can catalyse SME development by taking advantage of the technology's low-cost and high quality. Balthas Seibold of InWEnt Capacity Building International, Germany, stressed, that new business models, innovative local FOSS products and services offer exciting opportunities for SMEs and for countries in the region, but only if the human resource base is expanded through capacity-building and training. InWEnt – Capacity Building International, a human resources development organisation of Germany supports, among its various projects, the development and application of local Free/Open Source Software (FOSS)-based innovative software solutions and business models in the ASEAN region through its it@foss project financed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development  (for more information, see http://www.it-foss.org).

The ASEAN+3 Regional Node, based in Manila, Philippines was created by the UNDP-IOSN as one of its three Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) centres of excellence in the Asia-Pacific region, which is primarily tasked to facilitate and network FOSS advocates, experts, and developers to foster its adoption (http://www.iosn.net/asean-3/countries/philippines/events/foss-at-rk).Email inquiries to ASEAN+3 can be sent via asean3@iosn.net Participants of foss@Work came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Philippines, and Malaysia with delegates also coming from as far away as Fiji and India. For more details about this event, visit http://www.iosn.net/asean-3/countries/philippines/news/fossatwork1_philippines

Alvin B. Marcelo is one of three sub-regional node managers of the International Open Source Network (IOSN). The International Open Source Network (IOSN) is a Centre of Excellence for FOSS in the Asia-Pacific Region. It shapes its activities around Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) technologies and applications. Via a small secretariat based at the UNDP Regional Centre in Bangkok and three centres of excellence

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