EOF - Nation without Software: Why Iraq Needs Linux

by Ashraf T. Hasson

Iraq has been in the dark ages of software, both in terms of using different available software and in developing its own. While the rest of the world was moving toward a major evolution in software usage and development, Iraq fell behind. Because of the crises of wars and sanctions, the largest institutions, both private and public, including the government, didn't have the opportunity to research and implement the best software for their needs. Instead, they took the first proposal to come along; unfortunately, Linux was not the proposal.

The software wheel turned too quickly to follow, especially due to the absence of the types of facilities needed to enable someone to become productive and successful in developing software.

With the new situation in Iraq, copyright has returned, and companies are willing to enforce infringed rights for unauthorized software usage, or at least prevent it from happening again, especially once things settle down here. This will push sites in Iraq to look for a substitute for proprietary software, because cost plays a definite role here, although it is not the main consideration.

Although it's nearly impossible to live without a computer these days, the ignorance and corruption of the past Iraqi ruling government held back growth and even caused the degradation of software usage in many vital departments. Hence, while things are still fresh, Linux could play a major role in aiding the rebuilding of a real infrastructure in several different fields without incurring heavy expenses.

This may require a Linux Community Center, which could handle some difficult techniques, to be established in Iraq to help with taking the first steps. You can imagine the whole situation as a white canvas to be sketched on and filled in with colors, freely choosing which colors to use.

I'm sure there are unlimited ideas to be implemented in many fields, which would have great benefits for all in aiding different aspects of life. As we are talking about infrastructure, the education sector seems to be one of the most suitable spots for Linux adoption, which might make it possible for easy, fast and professional implementation of Linux to do the job here in Iraq.

Establishing or rebuilding the knowledge network itself may take some time, which in turn reveals another angle in making Linux one of the main stones in this construction—making it part of daily professional computer usage. For instance, until now many high schools have not changed their syllabi since the last decade, and they do not even teach hardware or software basics.

Here it could be possible to teach Linux OS basics not in terms of migration from one OS to another, or even in terms of a new OS, but rather in terms of a powerful OS that will give fresh brains a chance to choose before getting locked into something else. This also applies to some colleges and institutions on a more advanced level. There is a lot of work to be done.

At the new Linux Users Group of Iraq, our first priority is to establish a Linux training lab and a lending library. We are asking both Al-Nahrain University in Baghdad and Baghdad University to host Linux training classes. We invite key information technology professionals from important public and private institutions in Iraq to participate in Linux training classes and seminars. As our members' institutions develop their Linux installation plans, we will collaborate on development of localized documentation and shared resources, including mailing lists and distribution mirrors.

Our Web site at linux-iraq.org will be updated with information on how you can help.

Ashraf T. Hasson lives in Baghdad, Iraq. He is a graduate of the Laser Department of the College of Engineering and is now working on a Master's of Science degree in Laser Engineering. He is the founder of the new Linux Users Group of Iraq.

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