Ububtu and FOSS Make Strides in Egypt - Fouad Bajwa's Open Letter
fouadbajwa at gmail.com
Sat Jan 19 22:56:42 GMT 2008
Ubuntu and Free and Open Source Software FOSS Make Strides in Egypt
By Fouad Bajwa,
Open Letter from a Global Trotter FOSS Advocate
It has nearly been a month since I arrived in Cairo, Egypt but it has
felt like the FOSS atmosphere in the country had been waiting for a
trigger to ignite and uncover the widespread interest in the region.
Yes, FOSS has already been here for quite some time now through LUGs
and small initiatives as well as Egyptians have been using FOSS
technology platforms in one way or the other but mostly for personal
My anticipation has been to help establish the Linux Professional
Institute Egypt and Ubuntu Linux activities while advocating the
benefits of adopting FOSS to the government organizations,
universities, civil society and private sectors. My first contact was
a group of trainers getting ready to launch professional LPI training
programs as well as technical support for FOSS in the country. Second
was bumping into Samer Azmy, an ex-UNDP Project Manager and FOSS
Advocate whom I had met during the Asia Source 2 Camp by UNDP-IOSN
last year in January in Indonesia.
The community is strong, there are many people and organizations
gearing up for adopting FOSS and pushing the agenda of open innovation
to the next level breaking the barriers towards accessing knowledge.
Only last week on the night of Saturday, Orbit TV Egypt aired a 20
minute documentary and talk show on the benefits of FOSS, Linux with a
focus on Ubuntu Linux, its Arabic language capabilities and the
opportunities it holds for Egypt and the Arab world.
After the TV show, somehow, lots of people sourced my local cell
number and a downpour of telephone calls started causing me trouble
explaining FOSS benefits in English language whereas the callers were
mostly speaking Arabic. But, all hope was not lost because they
somehow knew what I was trying to explain and viceversa.
The most prevailing questions included parents asking how they can
prevent their children from using or stealing pirated software and
businessmen concerned about the protection of their information and
removing pirated software. Somehow, many callers also knew about
specialized FOSS ERP and Communications applications. The most
interesting call was from a group that was interested in developing
electronic games for egypt on FOSS based gaming engines.
The most tangible result evolved from a caller from a Christian Youth
initiative that has agreed to train all its members on Ubuntu Linux as
well as sit the first LPI paper based tests in the region. There
stance was, how can we steal other people's efforts through pirated
software when we have the opportunity to learn and use FOSS both for
social as well as economic benefits of their community members. It is
true, FOSS creates its own path for adoption.
The next two weeks are packed with lectures to be delivered by myself
and a number of other FOSS advocates at various government educational
and research institutions on the topic of FOSS in Education and
Government Policy. A cultural center will be hosting a full house
event on the topic of FOSS and Cultural Production that will air open
productions and explore the various tools for use by cultural
organizations and arts enthusiasts.
Before I leave Cairo mid of next month, two seminars with nearly 25
business partners of a global technology giant will be held in the
offices of various companies where a technical review of FOSS will be
carried out in light of the problems that these companies have faced
with closed source software. A key topic of discussion will be the
economic and business models of FOSS driving the path for adopting
such technologies in mainstream commercial service delivery.
A number of organizations are signing MOU's as well as short term
contracts for further technical support on the subject and this
creates a positive environment for development of a FOSS Ecosystem in
which the government will adopt small but effective FOSS initiatives
while universities and vocational centers are looking at becoming LPI
partners. On the other hand civil society is interested in finding
opportunities in FOSS whereby they can improve their outreach as well
as extend ICT capacity to the sector and their stakeholders.
Having shared this, some good news in the form of press releases will
be following by the adopting institutions bringing Egypt clearly on
the global FOSS adoption map but at the same time, I will be stepping
into other countries this year, this time on the corners of Europe,
spreading the message of FOSS and catalysing such efforts that just
need a bit of a push in terms of financial and knowledge resources
though it is a long journey but the motivation lives strong.
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