With the advent of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), it is becoming increasingly apparent that we cannot do away with software. Our lives are becoming more and more complicated each day with the introduction of one software or the other or one technology or the other. Now, software controls not only the flow of information, but also on people's ability to control and adapt the information. However, the reality is that commercial software companies continue to have a proprietary hold over software packages sold and used in developing countries, and restrict the way the software can be used. This concern has led to an international movement for software packages that can be bought cheaply, shared freely and changed around and developed as the users want.
Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) refers to such software which give users the freedom to:
- use the software for any purpose
- access to the source code of the software, study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs
- redistribute copies
- improve the program, and release the improvements to the public
In developing countries, the stability of FOSS distributions has enabled low-cost deployment of sophisticated IT infrastructure. FOSS clearly provides access to excellent primary sources for learning material for students, while the transparency of the technology has re-invigorated the technological and philosophical debate on private versus public right of access to information. It has advantages over the proprietary ones in security, reliability, flexibility, possibility of localization and finally low cost.
The FOSS movement is changing the way people perceive software not only in Nepal but around the globe. In Europe, the European Union, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are leading the way in FOSS development. In other countries, Peru, Brazil, US (at the state level), Japan, South Korea, China, India, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, South Africa are leading the way of deploying FOSS and adopting Open Standards. In developing countries like Brazil, FOSS has been adopted at the national level. All the government agencies work in FOSS platform. Recently, Cambodia decided to adopt FOSS in education. Similarly, OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project is penetrating the education sector around the globe with FOSS. In southern states of India, FOSS has been included in policies and heading towards its deployment in every possible sector. The need and advantages of FOSS has been analyzed and widely adopted in many other sectors like health, environment and government.
FOSS in Nepal
The FOSS movement in Nepal has come a long way and at present, is at a stage where people are starting to take notice of it. Most of the Internet Service Providers are using FOSS like GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL/PostgresSQL, PHP, BIND, Sendmail, etc. for different services. In the education sector, there has already been LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project) deployments by different organizations like Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya and Help Nepal Network along with FOSS Nepal Community in 7 (seven) remote schools of Godawari, Dailekh, Dhading, Dang, Sudal, Sindhupalchowk, and Dhulikhel. More projects are in pipeline in which same kind of systems are to be deployed in 16 more schools in the months to come. As for NepaLinux, the GNU/Linux distribution in Nepali language, it has already been deployed in some tele-centers, Ministry of General Administration and the National Library.
In a developing country like Nepal, it is almost impracticable to afford licensed proprietary software. Thus, most of the people have been using cheap pirated proprietary software at homes, offices and almost at every nook and corner. Using pirated proprietary software, we, not only become culprits on a moral basis but also are forced to remain under constant trepidation that some day the software may actually crash and thus inflict huge loss of the valuable data. In such extreme cases, we will have nobody to complain to, other than sit and repent for having used unauthorized and unauthentic software.
FOSS Nepal Community together with High Level Commission for Information Technology (HLCIT), the apex body for IT in Nepal formed under the chairmanship of Rt. Honorable Prime Minister, have organized several events together including FOSS Orientation program, Software Freedom Day 2007, Training on Migration to FOSS for government officials of different ministries just to name a few. It has also been supporting various FOSS-related activities including Software Freedom Day 2008. The Software Freedom Day 2007 celebration in Nepal marked a new beginning for the FOSS movement in Nepal with FOSS Nepal being declared one of the three winners of the Global Software Freedom Day Best Event Competition. FOSS Nepal has been able to repeat the feat in the year 2008 making it two in a row.
Objective of the Media Workshop
Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) has the potential to offer journalists more access to information and has become an important presence in the independent media movement. With FOSS, journalists' ability to share, exchange and process information would be increased with no extra costs. The media can play a vital role in promoting the debate on proprietary software/content versus FOSS. And also, as with any other technology, the purchase of software by governments - or any other accountable institution - should be subject to media scrutiny. It is important for the media to investigate the reasons why governments opt for a particular software package, rejecting others, and to examine the mutual benefits and disadvantages. In a sense, this exercise is no different from reporting on any other routine government procurement - except that the sales of software are often worth billions of dollars. Is it money well spent? Are there any alternative options and are our governments aware of them? Was the process of procurement open and transparent? And what is the deal? Will the government have access to the software's source code, the original program instructions, or is such access limited? But these issues have not yet taken any ground in Nepali journalism. Even if some media people are aware about this, most of the mainstream journalists are in the dark side. So, our introductory "Media Workshop" is aiming to sensitize and orient journalist on FOSS and related perspectives.
This workshop is mainly targeted for around 25 journalists from Mass Media, especially those who are already working in their media houses for reporting Science, Technology and related fields.
The workshop will be a one day program, divided into different sections.
First Session: Media and Technology
- Software and Internet Technology- An Introduction
- Web 2.0, blogs, websites
- Nepali language Computing (Unicode, keyboard layouts, etc)
Second Session: Technology and Freedom
- Open Standards
- Open Source Software
- Political, Social and Economical Impacts (in Nepal's context too)
- Privacy, Anonymity and Security
- Copyright, IPR, licenses, Nepali Context (also P2P, File Sharing etc)
- Feedback (Bloggers, Journalist, Tech Experts)
- Formation of a Technology Journalists' Group