Open Source Software and the Digital Divide

Open Source Software and the Digital Divide

Heidi L. Schnackenberg (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA), Edwin S. Vega (State University of New York at Plattsburgh, USA) and Michael J. Heymann (Nazareth College, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5888-2.ch456
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According to Bonaccorsi and Rossi (2003), the open source movement was not motivated by profit, yet gained momentum in an environment that was dominated by proprietary regulations. Conversely, the way that commercial software is conceptualized, produced, and marketed is quite different from the open source process. Proprietary software development is often highly secretive, thus creating a very insular process where only a certain number of people can be involved in the evolution of the product. In a global society and market, where knowledge and information aren’t held by just a few, and communication is constant through social networks and real-time, interactive video applications, the proprietary software creation process seems somewhat antiquated, often resulting in a product that has “bugs.” Although open source products are far from perfect themselves, the consumer isn’t paying for those imperfections like they are with commercial products (Schnackenberg & Vega, 2010).

The success of open source demonstrates that society possesses strong collaboration ability, both virtually and in person. De Florio and Blondia (2010) call this cooperation potential social energy and assert that it can be used to overcome the technological accessibility issues of certain groups of users (Mehra, Merkel & Bishop, 2004), such as individuals with disabilities or impairments. In both of their 2010 articles, Sun, DeFlorio, Gui, and Blondia (2010a, 2010b) illustrate this phenomena in the creation and use of Ambient Assisted Living (AAL) programs, where human interaction (i.e. social energy) is the fundamental element in this “mutual assistance community” where both elderly and young people participate and assist each other with problems and challenges. The creation of use of a platform such as ALL precisely exemplifies the spirit of the Open Source Initiative.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Intellectual Property: Ideas, creations, and inventions that are the exclusive property of the owners.

Linux: A Unix-compatible operating system that was collaboratively developed and is free to the public.

OLPC: One Laptop per Child.

Open Source: A philosophy and a methodology associated with free and collaborative, creation, modification and use of software applications and operating systems.

FOSS: Free Open Source Software.

Web 2.0: In the broadest sense, the second iteration of the World Wide Web (WWW), where web pages allow users to communicate, collaborate, and construct knowledge via social networks, video sharing sites, blogs, wikis, etc.

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