FOSS Solutions for Community Development

FOSS Solutions for Community Development

Balaji Rajendran (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, India) and Neelanarayanan Venkataraman (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-497-4.ch002
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The use of ICT solutions in developmental activities and the deployment of them in modern telecentres have been widely accepted phenomena. In this article, we examine the use of FOSS – Free/Open source software in ICT solutions and categorize them into two types: ‘FOSS in’ and ‘FOSS for’, in order to emphasize the difference between those solutions, where FOSS play a meager or symbolic role and those solutions that are specifically developed to address a community need. We discuss about our experience in developing a FOSS-based ICT solution that is specifically built to address the needs of a community information system. We illustrate our three-tiered multi-stakeholder model of development, deployment and usage. We also describe our experience in the process of development and pilot deployment of our solution in various locations of India, and emphasize on the synergies between our model and the FOSS mode of ICT solution development.
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Telecentres And Community Development

A Telecentre is generally a public place, where people living in a geographical region get access to a variety of services, through ICT tools, including computers, Internet, the related software and other digital accessories. The main aim of these telecentres is to support the process of community development, through the use of ICT tools in economic, educational, and social developmental projects and activities for a given community (Katherine & Ricardo, 2001).

Telecentres exists in many countries of the world, though they are called by different names, such as Community Information Centre, Kiosks, Common Services Centre, Public Internet Access Centre etc… Telecentres also differ by the services they offer, the people or the region or the community they serve, and by their business or organizational models. Telecentres may be operated by governments, or through NGOs or through PPP – Public Private Partnership models.

Telecentres have been around the world for a long period of time, evolving continuously with the new technologies and with different models of establishment and sustainability. Telecentres are also viewed as a movement, to bring the benefits of the new digital and connected information society to those under-privileged communities. Case-histories from some of the early telecentres established in both the developed and developing worlds (Fuchs, R, 1998) have been studied, and their analysis indicated much of the commonalities exist in the case of applications, infrastructure, technological innovation etc… A study of the telecentres that have been established in the Latin-American and the Caribbean regions for the developmental activities and their need to promote them in order to bridge the gap between the rich and the poor had been reported, along with the business perspective (Proenza, F., Bastidas-Buch, R. & Montero, G, 2001).

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