[Fsf-friends] FLOSS... in Pakistan

Frederick Noronha (FN) fred@bytesforall.org
Mon May 23 14:54:20 IST 2005

From:  "Shahzad Ahmad" <shahzad@isb.sdnpk.org> Add Address
Date:  2005/05/23 Mon PM 01:18:25 IST
To:  <bytesforall_readers@yahoogroups.com>, Subject:  Pakistan: The Open Option


Here is a kind of basic status report on Open Source regime in Pakistan by
the writer who works for the Open Source Resource Center (OSRC) project of
the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB). An ex-SDNPier, she reports some
very interesting developments on this front in Pakistan. Just for your kind 
information. Any suggestions or queries can be directed to Mr. Osman Haq, 
Project Manager, OSRC in Islamabad at <hosman@pseb.org.pk>.

Best wishes and regards.
Shahzad Ahmad


The Open Option
By Seema Javed Amin, May 21, 2005

A cash-strapped computer student or a professional cannot afford to purchase 
different software packages of Microsoft's MS Windows XP Home Edition, which 
costs about Rs. 5,000 or more per package. But illegal and pirated computer 
versions are available in the local market at a fraction of the original cost.

The software are being used in our homes and in our offices. We cannot deny 
that we are violating international intellectual property right laws. Since its 
entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO), Pakistan has repeatedly been 
criticized by the international community because of this. But now there is an 

Countries such as Australia, Brazil, China, India, the European Union,
Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Japan, Malaysia, Peru, South Africa, South 
Korea, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, the United Kingdom; California, Oregon and 
Texas in the United States and Zambia have saved a lot of money because their 
government projects and businesses have switched from proprietary to open 
source software (http://www.iosn.net/downloads/foss_primer_current.pdf).

This fact might not be very well-known in general, but its proponents have been 
working quietly behind the scenes, revolutionizing computer technologies since 
the sixties and seventies, providing computer users, who cannot afford 
expensive proprietary software with an alternative set of options.

Microsoft's (MS) software, although user-friendly, is vulnerable to
malicious viruses and requires regular security upgrades. This is something 
that only MS's software developers can take care of, because the way in which 
computer language is used to "write" a program like MS Word is a secret known 
only to them. This is known as "closed source code."

On the other hand, open source software developers the world over modify and 
share their written version of an already existing "open source code."

This results in open source software, which individual computer users can
download from the internet for free. Programs include OpenOffice.org
(http://www.openoffice.org/), an alternative to MS Office. Browsing the
internet with Mozilla Firefox is similar to MS Internet Explorer and
Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.org/) can be used instead of MS Outlook or
MS Outlook Express. A multi-protocol messenger is also available in the form of 
Gaim (http://sourceforge.net/).

At the local level, open source software's proponents include Linux Pakisan 
(http://www.linuxpakistan.net/) and the Free and Open Source Software Special 
Interest Group of the Computer Society of Pakistan

At the national level, Pakistan is open to investment from the private
sector, provided it can respect intellectual property rights. The
government, however, can also explore open source software as a relatively
cheap and security-intensive alternative. The Electronic Government
Directorate's (http://pakistan.gov.pk/e-government-directorate/index.jsp)
e-projects and all mission-critical security, business and financial systems 
and industrial sectors of the economy can flourish cost-effectively by using 
open source software.

The Ministry of Information Technology 
(http://www.pakistan.gov.pk/moitt/index.jsp) is currently implementing two
open source software-related projects under the Pakistan Software Export
Board (http://www.pseb.org.pk/).

The "Automation of Domestic Industry on Open Source Systems" project aims to 
develop Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for four to five
industrial sectors and to introduce the automation culture in Small and
Medium Enterprises (SMEs) with a developmental budget of Rs38 million. This 
project will create jobs by initiating open source software development in 
Pakistan, and help local software companies acquire knowledge and experience of 
open source technologies. It is expected that this will help in eliminating the 
software piracy issue in Pakistan, and also bridge the gap between the local 
industry and software companies.

In the first phase, the following industrial sectors have been selected for the 
development of business process automation software:

- All Pakistan Textile Processing Mills Association (APTPMA).

- Pakistan Association of Automotive Parts and Accessories Manufacturers

- Pakistan Ready-made Garments and Exporters Association (PRGMEA) and
Pakistan Hosiery Mills Association (PHMA).

- Surgical Instruments Manufacturers Association of Pakistan (SIMAP).

Another project worth Rs29 million, the Open Source Resource Center
(http://www.osrc.org.pk/) facilitates stakeholders and investors in the
software industry, should they decide to shift their businesses from
vendor-dependent proprietary software to open source software technology. It 
aims to create a culture of open source software use in Pakistan through media 
awareness and training workshops, and act as a virtual community for experts in 
this field.

A project worth Rs24 million has begun under the auspices of the Pakistan
Computer Bureau (http://www.pcb.gov.pk/). Its target is to create a talent
pool of 4,000 end-users and 200 systems administrators in open source
software technologies. It has already trained a number of people in this
regard. Another objective of this exercise is to prepare related training
material in a simplistic format.

The writer works for the Open Source Resource Center (OSRC) project of the
Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB).

Selecting the right software

Quite a few of us want to opt for open source software, but we don't know
where to begin. Sci-tech World presents a few basic tips for selecting the
right software, thus making the switch a tad easier. Here is what you should 
look out for:

1. Reputation - find out more about the software, that is, whether it is
able to perform well. Visit your CD vendor several times if you have to, but do 
not buy a software because you're running out of patience. Discuss your plans 
with an experienced person before purchasing it.

2. Ongoing effort - quite a few open source software have been launched, but 
not much has been done to improve upon them. So, before you decide to
purchase a relatively unknown software, do find out if efforts are being
made to develop it. You don't want to pay a lot of money, only to find out
that the software you selected is probably going to fall flat on its face.

3. Standards - choosing the software, which implements open standards is
very important, for it could turn out to be very costly, if you buy software 
that may eventually force you to learn new languages or complex data formats.

4. Support community - make sure that the software you choose does have an
interactive support community that is ready to answer your questions about 
deployment. If not, then you might have a hard time trying to figure out things 
on your own.

5. Versions - try to buy software that has the latest version available in the 
market. Doing so will not only make sure that you have all the relevant 
updates, but will also keep your system relatively stable.

Frederick (FN) Noronha | Freelance Journalist | Mobile +91 9822 122436
Tel +91.832.2409490    | http://fn.swiki.net  | http://www.bytesforall.net

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