The International Open Source Network (IOSN), www.iosn.net, is a centre of excellence for Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) in the Asia-Pacific region. IOSN is a project of the UNDP’s Asia-Pacific Information Development Programme (APDIP), www.apdip.net, which has been supporting the strategic and effective use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for poverty alleviation and sustainable human development in the Asia-Pacific region since 1997. Via a small secretariat, the IOSN is tasked specifically to accelerate the adoption of FOSS by facilitating and networking relevant technologists, advocates, institutions and end-users.
IOSN considers FOSS to be in line with UNDP’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) because it increases access to, ownership of, and control of information and communication technologies. FOSS in our opinion provides a copyright cum licensing framework and global collaborative methodology, which can be applied in all areas of development theory and practice.
The principles and practices underlying FOSS can be used to stretch the development dollar and dramatically scale up the impact of various interventions. FOSS development methodology could foster new forms of knowledge production in a collaborative, non-hierarchical, peer-to-peer manner. IOSN also believes FOSS provides a model to protect and strengthen the public domain and creative commons. A vibrant public domain and creative commons is considered critical for innovation, enterprise and vitality in private and development sector.
Free Software Foundation and Open Source Initiative are two of the larger organisations that represent the FOSS community and cause. However, most FOSS campaigns are presented from software and technical perspective. Not surprisingly, members of the general public do not sympathise with this cause. Yet the aims of FOSS movement are in line with other advocates that seek to empower the commons. Therefore, we would like the Free Software advocates to join similar causes such as Free Medicine [ex. generic HIV/AIDS drugs], Free Seeds [ex. seed banks], Free Books [ex. Open Access Movement] and Freedom of Information Movement. We believe this alliance will allow us to effectively capture the imagination of the public.
Free / Open Source information resource facility
The IOSN website is the platform through which the global FOSS community works with the IOSN secretariat. It is a community driven site, and the community helps maintain news and events from around the region. One of the aims of IOSN is to foster regional cooperation and the website provides a collective resource of all the FOSS efforts in the region. For example, a resource for education in Sri Lanka on the website, will show related links to other educational efforts in the Asia-Pacific region. Any FOSS project, no matter how small can now tap on regional FOSS resources for support. The community also uses a mailing list for support. The website currently hosts a thriving international community of more than a thousand members, which collaborates on projects such as localisation of software and translation of FOSS documentation.
FOSS primers series
These are concise, comprehensive and non-technical introductions to different aspects of FOSS addressed at people working in the development and government sector. A general introduction to FOSS by Kenneth Wong and Phet Sayo has already been published. Other primers on FOSS currently under production include licensing, government policy, network and security and localisation. The authors come from countries in the Asia-Pacific region like Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Nepal and Laos. These primers are being authored using a FOSS-like methodology, drafts are uploaded on the website for feedback from the general public. Domain experts are invited to submit peer reviews. Many regional and international FOSS experts have provided feedback as part of the open process.
A collection of FOSS software and GNU/Linux distributions specific to the Asia Pacific are being compiled and maintained at the IOSN secretariat. Copies of this software will be posted to non-profit organisations based in countries with poor bandwidth. The list currently includes localised GNU/Linux distributions, free software that runs on Microsoft Windows, special distributions for education, software for open access publishing and content management systems.
Training and workshops
FOSSAP 2004: This is the acronym for Free/Open Source Software Asia Pacific consultation which was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from 9th – 11th February 2004. More than 50 senior policy makers and open source practitioners from 20 countries attended this event. It focused on government policies, implementation issues in education and government sector, licensing and legal issues, software localisation, network and security infrastructure.
Training of trainers and proctor: The lack of trained and certified personnel is a major stumbling block for adoption of FOSS in this region. Therefore, IOSN will conduct training for trainers and proctors in collaboration with Linux Professional Institute (LPI). The trainers will be enabled to deliver training based on course material has been developed by LinuxIT, United Kingdom. This course material has been released under GNU Free Documentation License and therefore is freely available to all. IOSN is working on improving this material and localising it for the Asia Pacific context.
Research and development
End-user training manual and multimedia module: The manual introduces the GNU/Linux desktop to users without prior experience of computers or free software.Volunteers have offored to translate the manual to German, Dutch, Philipino, French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. GetIT Multimedia, Singapore, will be converting the manual to a multimedia module with video clips, voice over and interactive exercises.
Localisation ‘How To’ and toolkit: Dr. Sasi Kumar from Centre for Advanced Computing (CDAC), India supported by specialists from Pakistan, Cambodia, Laos, Greece and Thailand will provide step by step instructions to developers interested in localising GNU/Linux, KDE, GNOME, Mozilla, Open Office and other applications, covering issues such as Unicode and Open Type Fonts. The toolkit will be a compilation of software, conversion utilities, reference documents and other resources, to help the developers.
GNU/Linux Live CD: The partner for this project is Colin Charles, Australia of the Fedora project. Live CDs allow users of proprietary software to experiment with GNU/Linux safely. All they have to do is reboot the machine with the live CD inserted in the drive. GNU/Linux will load without writing a single file onto the hard-disk. The IOSN live CD will be unique because it will contain soft copies of all the primers, the end-user training manual and multimedia module.
Micro-grant programme: This is a collaboration with University of South Pacific. Twenty grants of six months duration each of USD 900 will be awarded to individuals and organisations from the the Pacific Island countries in the first round. Projects will be selected based on originality and innovation; utility value to an identifiable user group and usefulness in the local developmental context. The resultant software will be made available under some FOSS license. Next year, IOSN hopes to launch a collaborative grants programme that will fund cooperations between voluntary organisations and Linux user groups.
Case studies on FOSS: Case studies in the areas of FOSS research, development and implementation will be prepared by IOSN secretariat or by community members.