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Taking open source to the rural areas

By   |  June 25, 2004

South Africa\’s CSIR yesterday formally opened a new dedicated open source centre(OSC) at the Mogalakwena HP i-community centre in the Limpopo province in South Africa. The new centre, established by the CSIR\’s Meraka project, is intended to demonstrate how open source software can be used in rural and community environments.

Adi Attar, the OpenSpeak focus area leader at the OSC says that \”by providing access to open source software, we\’re creating new paths of education, new opportunities for business development and new avenues for people to invent their own solutions.

\”Through our local point of presence here in Mogalakwena, we can demonstrate how open source software can be used in rural and community environments – rather than just talking about it. We can show how it gives people new skills and stimulates small, medium and micro enterprise development. And we can spread the open source message to thousands of people who would\’ve been unlikely to hear it before,\” says Attar.

The HP i-community centre was initially established in the Limpopo province following the World Summit on Sustainable Development that was held in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2002. Today the multi-purpose educational centre is home to a range of business, media and educational initiatives including the open source centre.

Clive Smith, project director of the Mogalakwena HP i-community says the centre was established \”to develop breakthrough models of sustainable social and economic development through the use of ICT. Open source is a key tool in this project. It allows us to serve our community better by, for example, creating Sepedi and Afrikaans versions of the applications we use. It also allows much lower price-points for computing and Internet access.\”

The OSC at Mogalakwena currently offers a comprehensive showcase of the capabilities of open source software. The centre, run primarily on the HP 441 machines offer a showcase of the capabilities of open source software and include a range of desktop and application translations, multi-media stations as and games machines. The new open source centre will provide both an opportunity for local business and provincial leaders to see open source software in a working environment as well as provide educational opportunities for local community members.

Thomas Black, open source programme manager at the Shuttleworth Foundation, says the OSC holds many opportunities for both the promotion of open source software as well as for the community of the Limpopo province. \”The most important aspect of HP and OSC\’s activities here … is that open source is being moved firmly out of the hype stage and into reality – and in a rural environment to boot. Also the software has the clear and public support of commercial and government-related organisations.\’


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