New methods needed to promote OSS development

By   |  January 13, 2004

Open standards and the need for new methodologies for funding open source development projects were some of the key issues emerging from the Idlelo Digital Commons conference in Cape Town, South Africa yesterday. Speakers over the past two days have repeatedly stressed the importance of open standards in taking the open source movement forward and popularising it use. Other key issues raised at the conference yesterday was the ongoing bandwidth challenges faced by tertiary institutions across the continent.

Evan Leibovitch, president of the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) said the words “open sostandards” were not heard nearly enough in the open source community. “Open standards are absolutely critical … and are the only way to guarantee that you always have access to your data, even if your toolmaker goes bankrupt.” Leibovitch said that proprietary document formats are perhaps one of the the biggest challenge facing the open source community at present.

Willie van der Westhuizen of In-Forms raised issues around the methodology required to produce software that is relevant and appropriate to government. Van der Westhuizn said that typically applications in the open source community were developed by programmers and reflected their own needs. Government is different in that it needed applications that are developed with users in mind, he said.

Leibovitch offered an example in support of this saying that a search of open source applications for \’farm management\’ software turned up three results, but all of them are for server farm management software, and none for “farms with animals”.

He said that most applications in the OSS community were developed “by geeks” for other technical users and were heavily biased towards system and development tools. Leibovitch said what is needed is a a new way of incentivising developers to produce the applications that they may not otherwise develop. An example, he said, was the Open Source Development Labs(OSDL) which channels funding from companies such as HP, IBM, CA and Intel towards supporting development projects that are in the broader interest of industry.

Van der Westhuizen agreed to this and said that a “foundation” approach similar to the OSDL might be the best methodology for accelerating development of needed applications.

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