Open Source Software: A Developing Country View

Open Source Software: A Developing Country View

Jennifer Papin-Ramcharan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-999-1.ch008
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This chapter presents issues that relate to developing countries’ use of open source software (OSS) and the experience of these countries with OSS. Here the terms open source software (OSS), free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) and free software (FS) are used interchangeably. It describes the benefi ts of FLOSS including its superior quality and stability. Challenges to FLOSS use particularly for developing countries are described. It indicates that despite the greater benefi ts to developing countries of technology transfer of software development skills and the fostering of information and communication technology (ICT) innovation, the initial cost of acquiring FLOSS has been the key motivation for many developing countries adopting FLOSS solutions. It illustrates this by looking at the experience of a university in a developing country, The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Campus in Trinidad and Tobago. Strategies for developing countries to benefi t “fully” from FLOSS are presented including the implementation of formal organized programmes to educate and build awareness of FLOSS. The authors hope that by understanding some of the developing country issues that relate to OSS, solutions can be found. These countries could then fully benefi t from OSS use, resulting in an increase in size of the global FLOSS development community that could potentially improve the quality of FLOSS and indeed all software.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Proprietary Software (PS): Software that is normally owned by a company that typically restricts access to the source code to protect the company’s intellectual property. The software is distributed as the “compiled” source code or executable code (the binary form of the program). Its use, redistribution, or modification is prohibited or severely restricted (e.g., Microsoft Word, Norton Antivirus).

Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): The full cost of deploying, maintaining and using a system (or software) over the course of its lifespan.

Free Software (FS): Computer programs that are not necessarily free of charge but give access to the source code and permit users the freedom to freely use, copy, modify, and redistribute.

Open Source Software (OSS): Software that meets the terms of the Open Source Definition ( ). To be open source, the software must be distributed under a license that guarantees users the right to read, redistribute, modify, and use freely.

Developing Countries: Developing countries are those that have an annual per capita income (Gross National Income [GNI]) between US$875 and US$10,725.

Source Code: The list of instructions that make up a computer program written in a high level programming language (like C, Java or PHP) that humans can read, understand and modify.

Free/Libre Open Source software (FLOSS): Used to refer to both free and open source software making no distinction between them.

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