Evaluating the Potential of Free and Open Source Software in the Developing World

Evaluating the Potential of Free and Open Source Software in the Developing World

Victor van Reijswoud (Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-999-1.ch007
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Development organizations and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have been emphasizing the high potential of free and open source software (FOSS) for the less developed countries (LDCs). Cost reduction, less vendor dependency, and increased potential for local capacity development have been their main arguments. In spite of its advantages, FOSS is not widely adopted on the African continent. In this chapter the experiences of one of the largest FOSS migrations in Africa is evaluated. The purpose of the evaluation is to make an on-the-ground assessment of the claims about the development potential of FOSS and draw up a research agenda for a FOSS community concerned with the LDCs.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Less Developed Countries (LDC): A developing country is a country with a relatively low standard of living, undeveloped industrial base, and moderate to low Human Development Index (HDI). The term has tended to edge out earlier ones, including the Cold War-defined “Third World,” which has come to have negative connotations associated with it.

Africa: Africa is the world’s second-largest and second-most populous continent, after Asia.

Case Study: A case study is a particular method of qualitative research. Rather than using large samples and following a rigid protocol to examine a limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of looking at events, collecting data, analyzing information, and reporting the results. As a result the researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did, and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research.

Software Migration: The managed process where a situation is changed into another situation. Migrating software means that the installed software is replaced by a newer or changed version with similar or extended functionality.

Desktop: In graphical computing, a desktop environment (DE, sometimes desktop manager) offers a graphical user interface (GUI) to the computer. The name is derived from the desktop metaphor used by most of these interfaces, as opposed to the earlier, textual command line interfaces (CLI). A DE typically provides icons, windows, toolbars, folders, wallpapers, and abilities like drag and drop.

Uganda: Uganda, officially the Republic of Uganda, is a country in East Africa, bordered in the east by Kenya, in the north by Sudan, by the Democratic Republic of Congo in the west, Rwanda in the southwest and Tanzania in the south. The southern part of the country includes a substantial portion of Lake Victoria, within which it shares borders with Kenya and Tanzania. Uganda takes its name from the Buganda kingdom, which encompasses a portion of the south of the country, including the capital Kampala.

Productivity Software: Consumer software that enhances the productivity of the computer user. Examples are word processor, spreadsheet, software development environments and personal database software.

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS): Free software is the term introduced by Richard Stallman in 1983 for software which the user can use for any purpose, study the source code of, adapt to their needs, and redistribute—modified or unmodified.

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