Singapore Hosts Major Open-Source Meeting in November

The Asia Open Source Software Symposium wants to coordinate OSS efforts and facilitate communications across many Asian countries.

From November 2 to 4, 2003, delegates from a dozen-and-a-half countries will meet in Singapore for the second Asia Open Source Software Symposium. This time, Japan is teaming up with the Singapore Linux Users Group to host the open-source meeting in the hopes of building a "concrete cooperative community" and embarking on "effective projects" involving a large number of countries in the world's most populated continent.

This year's event is a follow-up to the one held in Phuket, Thailand, in March of this year. The November meeting's aims include updating participants about developments in each country, building a management system for the scattered Open Source community and finding ways to promote it through enhanced Asian cooperation.

Funded by the Japanese Centre of International Cooperation for Computerization (CICC), the event is being organised in collaboration with the Singapore Linux Users Group. Reports from 18 countries are expected to come in during the event, in the hope of helping paint a detailed canvas of OSS projects currently underway. The event also intends to introduce organisations and groups that are active in different countries and describe the various players in the open-source and free software sphere in this critical part of the globe.

A sprawling continent somewhat divided by thriving diverse cultures and the lack of common languages, Asia also is making efforts to look at the various GNU/Linux distributions being put out in various economies here. For instance, the Thai TLE distribution and the Filipino Bayanihan Linux each come in its own slick and impressive packaging. But few people outside these respective countries are aware of their existence. Similarly, Milan, a distribution that offers local language support in tongues spoken by tens of millions, recently made its little-noticed debut in India.

Some 70 participants are expected to attend the invitation-only Asia Open Source Software Symposium. To help fulfill these goals, the organisers of the meeting told prospective participants, "If you had projects in your area that were OSS related, please suggest how you expect to succeed in them if there was support--in whatever form--available from the Asia OSS community." See the Asia OSS Web site for details.

Countries to be represented at the Asia Open Source Software Symposium include Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Chinese Taipei and Vietnam.

The organisers of the event, which will be hosted at the Pan Pacific Hotel, said:

The last ten years have seen dramatic growth in the popularity of open-source software (OSS) in all sectors--government, business, academia, research and development as well as education.

A major beneficiary of these technologies are the lesser developed economies who are generally dependent on the ability to push national development on the basis of the availability of low-cost computing devices on which OSS are able to function very well.

Participants at both the March and November meetings include official organisation representatives and IT policy makers, officially funded R&D groups, business and industry using open source, academia and institutions focusing on human resource development and supporting community groups.

Recently, organisers voiced their interest in expanding this network from being focused primarily on Southeast Asia to include South Asia, too. For the November meeting, special attempts have been made to involve countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, according to Venkataraman Nara Narayanan, a Singapore-based consultant to the CICC. CICC is funded by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), apart from other bodies.

Narayanan and CICC Singapore representative Jun Nakaya currently are touring India. "There's a lot is happening on the open source front in India. It's too important to ignore," Narayanan told me during a recent meeting. They are focusing their trip on IT software giants Wipro and IBM in Bangalore, as well as educators, government initiatives and school-related projects using GNU/Linux.

Two Birds of a Feather sessions are planned for the Singapore meeting, one to discuss OSS legal issues and the other to discuss e-learning. Coordinated by Kuo-Wei Wu of Chinese Taipei, the OSS legal issues sessions will identify various types of OSS licenses, debate their advantages and disadvantages and look at alternatives. The e-learning BoF will discuss the various types of open-source tools--learning management systems, content development tools, assessment systems and repository systems--available for e-learning initiatives.

Frederick Noronha is a freelance writer living in Goa, India.

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Asian concerns different?

Anonymous's picture

Are Asian concerns about Linux difference from those of the rest of the globe then?

Re: Asian concerns different?

Anonymous's picture

Having attended the first symposium, I can tell you the focus:

1) embedded Linux. The Taiwanese, Japanese, Chinese and Koreans see a huge market in PDAs, phones and portable devices. They don't want to pay Microsoft for the priviledge.

2) lack of desire to be controlled by the USA. Same as Europe's motive.

3) large amounts of local font and language issues. Europe and USA based projects do functionality first, localization if there's time (true, things are getting better). Lots of OSS work in Asia is just getting the software working in local languages and fonts. Collaboration may help.

Re: Asian concerns different?

Anonymous's picture

Yes. They are trying to compete in markets dominated by one particular country (the United States) and, seeing an advantage, they are taking it. Just like the work of Deming on Quality Control which inspired the Japanese auto invasion, and was ignored in the United States.

This could be attributed to many different things, but that's irrelevant in this discussion. Historically, Asians have always banded together for their national good when it comes to business. Meanwhile, in the United States, everyone sues each other.

This differs in that the 'rest of the world' is not as aggressive about their national common good. They perceive it as important to a degree that overshadows the majority of the rest of the world.
What's interesting here, though, is probably the best thing that could happen for GNU/Linux. China. A lot of hardware is made in China. If China is backing GNU/Linux, and they are producing a lot of the hardware (if not all), then the drivers that have been handicapping the GNU/Linux desktop may grow to a point to make Windows XP look like Windows 95. Or was it Windows 96?

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