OSS gets the Shuttleworth treatment
Public awareness of open source software is due to get a healthy boost in South Africa over the next two years, thanks to the efforts of Mark Shuttleworth, The Shuttleworth Foundation, HP and the CSIR.
The conglomerate of parties have committed R9 million to the promotion of open source for 2004, and are expected to continue their financial commitments in 2005, making the potential budget a whopping R18 million over two years.
\”If nothing else, we hope to educate typical computer users about what open source is,\” says Black. \”Currently, end-users associate computers with proprietary software because they\’ve never known any different – it\’s a very difficulty association to break. Open Source software is such a different concept – when you tell people that the software is completely free and just as good as the stuff they\’re either paying for or pirating, they always think there must be a catch. It\’s an entire mindset that needs to be changed.\”
According to Thomas Black, Open Source Program Manager, The Shuttleworth Foundation, Go Open Source (www.go-opensource.org) will distribute The Open CD (www.theopencd.org) – a collection of open source software that runs on top of Windows – in order to help the public understand the potential of open source.
\”We will be releasing an updated version of The Open CD and Linux distributions later in the year – we will get more daring as time goes by,\” says Black.
Black says that Go Open Source is considering releasing its own distribution, which will be designed to cater to the low-tech user. \”We would like a one CD distribution themed and customised for South Africa,\” says Black. \”Shuttleworth wants to base it on Debian, but it\’s a campaign decision.\”
Promoting open source to average users for their desktops once again raises the debate of whether open source is ready to take on Windows on Redmond\’s home turf. \”There\’s no reason for users not to use the CD that we\’re distributing,\” says Black. \”A complete Linux installation is more complicated, but no more complicated than installing Windows. We want to challenge the legacy perception of the complexity of building Linux.\”
Shuttleworth, whose achievements include being the first space tourist and becoming a member of SA president Thabo Mbeki\’s International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development, says that his personal fortunes are due in part to open source software. \”Open source software assisted me tremendously \” I built up Thawte Technology only because of open source software.\” Thawte was purchased by Verisign in 1999 in a $575 million paper deal.
\”Ultimately the message to South Africans is that IT should be (and is) about choice,\” says Adi Attar, OpenSpeak Focus Area Leader of the parastatal CSIR Open Source Centre. \”Currently, most people don\’t know that they have the choice. Knowing this empowers people in many different ways: it can open doors to new business opportunities, educate people about computers and technology, free people from lock-in from software vendors and empower people to create their own innovative IT solutions.
\”South Africa as a country will be closer to capitalising on the promised benefits of OSS: economic growth and empowerment of society,\” says Attar.