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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Weblinks May 2010


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Moving into the Software Revolution!

Today’s media practice, like most other professions, cannot really do much without the aid of a computer!

Ever since I got engaged in the activities of the International Institute of ICT Journalism (PenPlusBytes), I have always sought means to access and apply new information and communication technologies to facilitate my job of collating, processing and disseminating news for meaningful impact on my target audience.

Indeed, the first thing that comes to mind is the computer, whenever you talk to the average Ghanaian about ICT. But what powers the computer to make it perform any instructed task is often left in technical hands – IT professionals.

My personal computer has run on an operation and application system from Microsoft, ever since I starting clicking and typing. Of course, like most PC users at my backyard, purchase of original software has never crossed my mind – I don’t even bother to know how much it costs, for fear of inability to pay.

However, I started getting worried when software manufacture, Microsoft started an exercise to clamp down on counterfeiting and piracy of its Windows OS and other products on the African continent, including Ghana.

Not only did I fear being caught but wondered if I could afford the ever-upgrading genuine operating system. And most especially, I was worried for small business operators in Kumasi and other parts of Ghana who just like me, use the computer for their basic spreadsheet, database and document processing.

My worry heightened when I learnt that patrons of old packs of Windows XP would be exposed to vulnerabilities because Microsoft will no longer offer support services for the many computers that run on the decade-old system.

In other words, if you want to be abreast with time, especially on security updates for your PC, you must go in for new software and surely in a year or two, you’ll still need to go for upgrading.

This got me thinking about alternatives to this ‘commercial’ software and wondered if the computer could really be a tool to help leapfrog development for a growing economy like Ghana.

It was therefore a great privilege when I was offered a scholarship by the Free Software and Open Source for Africa (FOSSFA) to be part of the CAMPWARE Suite training for media practitioners in West Africa, on the sidelines of the Fourth African Conference on Foss and the Digital Commons (Idlelo4) in Accra.

This was surely not the first time of I have heard about open source and free software, but I had never considered personal application. ‘Free and open source software (FOSS) refers to software that is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to use, study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code’.
Now, as I sat behind my training PC at the Ghana-India Kofi Annan Centre of Excellence in ICT, I began appreciating the power of FOSS through the efficiency and ease of working on an ‘UHURU’ platform. Well, for a broadcast journalist, the additional sources like the use of ‘Audacity’ in audio editing were simply amazing!

Interactions with FOSSFA Project Coordinator, Silvia Aimasso helped shape my perception about the use of open source and I sought for more.

For Silvia, organizations have the option to choose between pirated software and open source applications, stating that it is up to local businesses to explore cost-effective alternatives in software applications to manage their operations.

She also believes efforts of local software developers must be supported to produce such applications through high patronage of the software, observing that there are sustainable job opportunities in free and open source applications.

Silvia told me “One of the advantages of free and open source software is that it gives people the opportunity to localize it and this is a great opportunity for African countries because they are used to importing software applications that are created in another environment. There is an industry that can be created in Ghana or in order African countries. Ghana has a quite good number of developers, programmers, trainers that work on ICT. So if the SMEs, with support of government, acquire open source software, they’ll be forced to get those services locally”.

Surely an increase in the production and application of FOSS would help develop the local ICT sector, which is an essential ingredient for the industrial development of the country.

There are presently several Open Source applications platform including Linux, IBM and Novell.
Currently, I’m in the process of migrating to FOSS – I just want to fall in love with Linux, IBM and Novell - and surely there will be no turning back! Please join me on this SOFTWARE REVOLUTION!!

©Kofi Adu Domfeh


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