Open-Source Software Opens New Windows to Third-World
Says Emmanuel Lallana of the E-ASEAN Task Force based in Manila: "It makes sense to use open standards and open source. We don't want to get locked into proprietary software. You can use Open Source also because it's cheaper. Why pay for an operating system and office suite, when you have people giving it out for free?"
In Thailand, the ambitious SchoolNet experiment--an initiative that seeks to provide universal access to teachers and students in schools in that East Asian country -- also taps into the power of GNU/Linux.
It has developed a Linux School Internet Server (Linux SIS) to be promoted and distributed to schools "as a cheaper alternative to using an expensive server software".
"Since its introduction, Linux-SIS has been very popular in Thailand due to its excellent documentation in the Thai language, its simple-to-install CD-ROM and web-based server management without the need to know UNIX commands," says Dr Thaweesak 'Hugh' Koanantakool, director of Bangkok's National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre (NECTEC).
SIS training courses are always in constant demand from schools looking for a reliable Internet server at the "lowest cost", says he. (More information on the Linux-SIS is available at www.nectec.or.th/linux-sis/ ) Some of the pages are in the Thai language.
News reports have recently focused on GNU/Linux initiatives in classrooms from different corners of the globe.
Of particular interest are those coming up from the Third World. Including Ganesha's Project in Nepal, a plan using donated machines and open-source software like Linux, in a move to cut the costs of acquiring software licenses for "an already impoverished school system".
In Goa, a former Portuguese colony on the west coast of India, after struggling for years to get discounts from Microsoft software for use in their schools, the Goa Schools Computers Project (GSCP) got a windfall. Red Hat offered not just a chance to reproduce their software over any number of computers, but also some training for school-teachers on the basics of GNU/Linux. Goa's unit of the India Linux Users' Group has also volunteered to support this project. (See the group overcoming their teething trouble at www.groups.yahoo.com/group/gscp or visit the background details of the project.)
Goa is one of India's smallest states (population 1.35 million; area 3700 sq.km). But this small experience showing what can be done inspired other GNU/Linux networks in other parts of India, where some groups are rather active, particularly in the bigger cities.
These are all significant ventures. Some are small; others are more ambitious. But there are lessons for everyone who can emulate and adapt some of these interesting ventures from all across the Third World.
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