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Linux Journal: Liberation Technology

Jun 10, 2003, 11:30 (8 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Frederick Noronha)

"The recent Finnish study on the significance of FLOSS (free/libre and open-source software) in developing countries labels itself version 1.0 and ushers in a new concept--not free as in beer or speech, but free as in education. This report, the latest in a series of studies on the impact of free and open-source software worldwide, focuses on the third world. It has been sponsored by Finland, home of the Linux kernel. 'This is the beginning. We will put out our findings on the Net and hope to get ideas on improvements (to the study),' says lead researcher Niranjan Rajani, originally from Pakistan and currently based in Helsinki. 'This has become a project that most probably will not have an end. You could consider this report [to be] version 1.0...this is just a starting point,' stressed Juha Rekola of KEPA, a Finnish network of non-governmental and campaign organisations involved in the study.

"Rajani, a philosopher who took to computing to earn a living, looks at the impact of FLOSS in specific countries, and he also views the implications of what it means for a cash-strapped economy. He has few doubts about the usefulness of FLOSS, which he believes would be 'extremely relevant' in any of the poorer parts of the globe. He says, 'Take the example of education. In terms of computer education, FLOSS has no match. Nothing else provides [as] much value to learners as FLOSS does. You're free to tinker with the code. Not only that, you can get in touch with the people who wrote the code and ask why this or that was done in a particular piece of code.

"'[FLOSS] offers low entry barriers. That's how it should be described. It reduces the barriers for anyone wanting to enter this field by making everything open. So much so, that many people fail to appreciate that fact. Besides, there's the element of cost. Most of the studies show that, in terms of cost, free and open-source software is unmatched. Some studies have been made which tend to show that, in certain cases, FLOSS may have more immediate costs. But I doubt the seriousness and validity of these studies on the ground that these studies do not take into account what would be happening if there was no FLOSS. Where would the cost structure of the current software be...?'"

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