Information technology is changing the way governments, businesses and educational institutions provide services. It has revolutionized networks across borders and cultures, promoting new opportunities for economic and social development. However, there are barriers to entry for new users as access to ICT is severely limited in developing countries due to high costs. Developing countries have to contend with priorities such as health care, food, shelter, electricity and basic economic priorities amidst other challenges: expensive communication infrastructure, applications and computer hardware.
Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) presents itself as an access solution for developing countries. It represents an opportunity for these countries to adopt affordable software and solutions toward bridging the Digital Divide. It represents an alternative to importing expensive proprietary software and applications.
Developing countries in the Asia-Pacific Region can achieve rapid and sustained economic and social development by using affordable yet effective Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) ICT solutions to bridge the digital divide.
International Open Source Network
While FOSS has become more accepted, there is a lack of understanding on its benefits, policy implications and resources available to Governments to implement FOSS solutions. FOSS software refers to applications and operating systems with open source codes for other parties to review, comment, refine, and extend. Very often this model includes a bug reporting process and is often quoted as a good model for producing resilient software. This open concept allows easy customization of the software to users' needs. FOSS represents an opportunity for developing countries to adopt affordable software and solutions toward bridging the digital divide. Cost-savings will allow funds to be used on other priorities and development objectives.
The International Open Source Network (IOSN) is a Center of Excellence for FOSS in the Asia-Pacific Region. It shapes its activities around FOSS technologies and applications. Via a small secretariat, the IOSN is tasked specifically to facilitate and network FOSS advocates and human resources in the region. The secretariat will:
- Serve as a clearinghouse for information on FOSS in Asia-Pacific
- Strengthen current FOSS capacities
- Assist with the development of needed toolkits and resource materials, including localization efforts
- Assist in the coordination of FOSS programmes and initiatives through information sharing and networking in the Asia-Pacific region.
Much of the IOSN coordination work will be undertaken online via the IOSN Portal so that governments, individuals, advocates, and others can have access to information, tools, resources, and discussion. IOSN is an initiative of the Asia-Pacific Information Development Programme (APDIP), which has been supporting the strategic and effective use of Information Communication Technology (ICT) for poverty alleviation and sustainable human development in the Asia-Pacific region since 1997.