Asia Source 2 - FOSS Stories from the South

These contributions are part of a series of articles that were prepared by iFOSSF during participation in the Asia Source II (FOSS Training Camp) held from January 22-30, 2007 at Yawtira Asri, Sukabumi, Indonesia during January 2007 with the support of UNDP-APDIP Asia Pacific Information Development Programme ( and the International Open Source Network (

Connecting the Country Through Enterprise FOSS Strategies

Even though I participate in the Hanoi LUG, I have not been playing a very active role however, in events like the International Software Freedom Day SFD, we help the LUG by providing free Internet Connectivity and drinking Beer with them" says 32 years old Vietnamese, VuThe BinH. BinH carries an Engineer Certificate in Electronic Engineering & Information Technology, a Bachelors degree in English and Masters of Economics from Vietnam.

"My Linux usage traits themselves are very interesting as I first used Slackware Linux from 1996-1999, then I had to fall back on to Windows from 1999-2002 due to some unavoidable issues switching back to SUSE Linux from 2003-2004 and back to Windows again. However, I have been continuously using FOSS applications on top of Windows and am now exploring to migrate to Ubuntu Linux.

Enterprise Challenge, "I worked for a computer technology company in Technical Support from 1995-97 and since 1997 have been working with the State Government owned IOIT - Institute of Information Technology (Hanoi). One of the biggest challenges I have faced within my work with FOSS is creating its awareness. Many people I have engaged with consider FOSS to be 'Free' as in totally free of cost. It has always been very hard to convince them that they have to spend something to obtain packaged FOSS applications. Another major concern for us is Software Piracy where the country's piracy rate may be estimated to be anywhere in between 95-97% whereas there is only a very few number of Licensed Software being used by both the Government and Academia only".

"Outlining the problems being faced by us to promote FOSS as a guideline for action and support, the largest lacking we face are Marketing Budgets for launching and funding effective communication programmes, marketing collateral and positioning strategies and establishing visibility through Mass Media. Adding to this situation, the FOSS community at the moment is comprised just of techies and IT people don't have such money for backing FOSS marketing."

Alternatives to achieve the unachievable, "At the moment, we are using traditional but effective means to promote FOSS including Websites, Support Forums, Discussion Lists, free Linux and FOSS trainings at Universities so that we can utilize existing infrastructure, Software Freedom Day Celebrations in line with the international events worldwide."

Much awaited National FOSS Policy, "The Government of Vietnam has been investing both time and money in drawing up a National FOSS Master Plan and deliverables are being much awaited including documentation, policies and plans that will only be there when they are officially released but we are very positive and optimistic for the future of support by the Government for FOSS".

Recent experiences, "On behalf of IOIT, I am also working with NetNam Corporation, also a State owned company established in 1994 running under IOIT that is both an Internet Service and Enterprise Networking Solution Provider. CPV-Communists Party of Vietnam is our major client and we won a project to implement a security solution connecting all CPV offices throughout the country. The CPV has 2 million party members almost all the high ranking people and the organization's offices spanning the country. This involved developing an Enterprise Networking Solution to connect 64 Provinces and 700 Districts protected by a Network Security Solution for running moderation on 700 computer nodes spread throughout the provincial and district levels."

"At the top level, they have an IT center, for each Province level they have one IT guy and none at district levels. We trained the people at Province level for managing the implementation. The solution is a CPV-WAN that is organized by creating three main centres connected with each other using NGN Next Generation Technology".

"The installation of the gateway includes a Firewall, IDS/Snort, FOSS Applications, IPtables, FWBuilder, NMAP. We did this on top of a localized Red Hat Linux Distro. We customizes the FOSS security applications, made an install and conducted extensive trainings to implement them nationwide. All nodes have been installed and are running well using the NGN technology."

Challenges ahead, "The Linux Distro was homemade by a 3rd party using Red Hat, localized by a Vietnamese company and they are unable to provide us with upgrades and hardware support since they do not have the money to upgrade the Distro. Secondly, the system does not have automatic update facility, instead we create a CD copy as updates become available, for example, the IDS virus definition signatures and a copy is manually sent off on a CD to all centres and their administrators/managers have to be update the system manually. We are interested in carrying out web-based interface integrations and manage the security product more effectively. In order to manage the system manage the firewall, we require the development of a desktop based system so that we can make things simple for the administrators to manage. We are already taking too much risks delivering only the basic security functions to protect against basic attacks but we need to prepare for advanced attack attempts."

author: Fouad Bajwa

Crashing Servers Teaches Linux - Realizing the Passion in Indonesia

Possibly, a productive way to learn computer use may be fiddling with it, however many may disagree but for Yohannes Baptista Agusnugroho, IT Coordinator of Formasi, Indonesia, it may really have been true. "Even though I was a student of Psychology, that didn't turn out to be the career track for me since I actually fell in love with computers" narrates Yohannes as he recalls the track he followed to aqcuire his Linux and FOSS skills.

"In 1985, around age 6, my father bought me a XT generation computer that helped evolve my love for games including Digger for DOS, this, probably, a very long time back when games came on large Floppy Disks hardly seen today. One day, while at the store where I went to buy games, a guy told me to learn programming and I questioned him that why should I, he replied, if you do so then one day you will program a game yourself and people may even buy it if its good.

The passion for programming was born driving me towards learning the Basic Programming Language and further in high school a computer teacher taught me computer software and hardware. In 1997, I attended college in Semarang, Central Java and initiated work as a part-time Internet Administrator for Internet Cafe's in the region and that was the first time I used Linux but passed through a very bad experience. I made some changes to the Linux Server and somehow later that day, the server crashed however, the owner called in a System Administrator who fixed the problem easily but that intrigued me to further explore Linux and strenghten my grip on the technical aspects.

After resigning from my Internet Cafe' job, I took up System Administration helping organizations with Linux but also tried other areas such as working as a Graphic Designer for a commercial newspaper while several other companies called me occasionaly to provide technical support visits to them. Later on, I met a programmer and learnt from him HTML growing my skills on to PHP and various FOSS CMS applications. In 2005 I stepped into the NGO sector with Jakarta as IT Staff that lead me to joining Formasi, in 2006 as an IT Coordinator responsible for assembling and leading a seven member IT Specialists Team but they still have been working on Windows due to some unavoidable constraints that I am tackling.

Yohannes's organization, Formasi, also known as the Indonesian Forum For Cooperatives Development is network of cooperative organizations and lobbies for the Government to develop polices to help Cooperatives grow in Indonesia and also supports its network to gain access to financial institutions. Formasi helps cooperatives grow bigger and is now including a focus for empowering these organizations with ICTs. Formasi's focus on ICTs is driven by the fact that Cooperatives are still ignorant of the benefits of ICTs especially FOSS, mostly still using manual data entry methods and if they anyhow manage to use computers, its only for donkey work, that is, data entry into a Spreadsheet Software without digital calculations and formulas.

Shares he: "Organizations cannot affored the burgonong costs of licensed proprietary software within the NGO sector and FOSS is an immediate and evident solution to remove that barrier therefore I have vision for this year to push the agenda of FOSS and Linux in particular for both Formasi and its cooperative members network since they have no exposure to FOSS attributed to the fact of lack of FOSS Resource Persons and limited budgets to support the organization of FOSS Capacity Building Programmes. I will be initially reducing the gap by training the inhouse staff at Formasi on FOSS right after Asia Source 2".

Yohannes has also faced certain problems promoting the use of FOSS in various other organizations, "It is a common perception in Indonesia that if the software Source Code is open and available with the software, it makes the software very insecure for use and to change that perception, I am building knowledge and technical partnerships at Asia Source that will help me in countering those misconceptions practically with enhanced knowledge and appropriate skills".

FOSS Inspiration, "For Indonesia, Onno W. Purbo is an inspiration for our young generation whom I met at the Security and Hacking Conference in Jakarta. in 2002. He has always been there to provide help, support and awareness on various occasions anywhere and anytime".

author: Fouad Bajwa

*Article is also available at:


Doing Little Creates A Major Difference Part-1

Jerome S.G is a 32 year old FOSS developer from the Philippines contributing to projects like Edubuntu and Ubuntu. "I excel best developing new stuff using FOSS instead of simply maintaining it, not because it doesn't pay good but because I have a passion for innovation and FOSS leverages me that flexibility. I would have never known where I would be if I hadn't started hacking code 10 years back when I got involved with FOSS while working for a Semi-Conductor Company.

His real inspiration, "My mother has also been an inspiration, she bought me a Zaurus PDA for my birthday due to my interest in tinkering technology and it came from the US and i still pay taxes for it but i really loved to flash it and play with its software like Open Zaurus and i fiddled with its firmware. I actually started modifying its interfaces and got a lot of appraisal from the Zaurus software development community. The PDA just died out but still Google carries information about how i converted and localized software to Japanese and Kanji and the Japanese developers involved with that were really pleased with my contributions."

More hardware means more fun for Jerome, "I got free hardware from the Zaurus community in Japan, 2 units of Zauras PDAs that was pretty new and radical back then, it was pretty slick. But since SHARP the manufacturer was not interested in supporting it, the community was just depressed and slowly withered away. My real passion is that I like to make people happy not only inside my country but also outside, I really feel happy about it.

Inspiration comes from home, "My wife supports my FOSS efforts and she believes i can excel in it as I can make a big impact either on people's lives as well as on myself. Even if you do small things, you always get big rewards even if you have no big expectations. So I moved from the Semi Conductor company to do new things instead of just maintaining code. I started using FOSS again in a new dimension. Although Microsoft Servers provide good stuff but still I don't like their abstractions and what they do with software code. I started with Red Hat Enterprise Linux RHEL since Red Hat was really catching on and bandwidth was increasing in my country and it was a good sign for helping people do innovative things. I had both high bandwidth at office and home. My managers also supported me doing some crazy stuff and I started doing innovative things with software".

Opening up to the world, "I have used IRC to talk and learn about new people and get into new stuff. I found the community where I could fit in. PHP was getting hot back then and I met a French guy exploring PHP on the channels and I started exploring technology with him introducing him to a new technology like blogs since they were just catching on. He praised me for introducing him to blogs and later on with his continued interest, his team's project B2 eventually became WordPress. This was French developer Michele Valdereni. I said check this link out and he benefited, now ruling the blogging world! I still talk to him when we get the chance and we recall old times.

Cheap Bandwidth, "It really makes a whole of difference when you receive the opportunity to explore and learn from content on the Internet. You should have that quality too for learning otherwise you would just waste your time online like the newer generation instead of being actually good and productive both for yourself and the world around you. The reason why I have a interest about technology is because I apply alternative ways to my work. I used WordPress, PHP Nuke or related tools doing customization with them and when I left the company where I worked, they were unable to replace me and my code when i left, they still run all the hardware and software I had provided them and I really value the work i do".

"A lot of people in the west may not even realize but we have a mobile infrastructure even better than them like Philippines has low cost 3G technology and high speed Mobile DSL Bandwidth for US$1 for 3 hours. It may seem a bit expensive but still when you do FOSS work and make a difference doing remote server administration, it does makes a bit difference. We have a prepaid culture that makes entry barriers very cheap. Today in the Digital Age, any place without low-cost bandwidth is like the stone age and very backward in technology."

author: Fouad Bajwa

Doing Little Creates A Major Difference Part-2

The Ubuntu & Edubuntu Story

Says Jerome S.G., "I tend to overdo stuff like instead of developing new stuff all the time instead of just forking the code so I moved on for better opportunities and empower myself to do something new and I learnt from scratch again, installed Solaris, exploring new code spending nights trying to find some work. I eventually stumbled upon this not-so-secret project by this south African millionaire guy and studied their mailing lists and code exploring where I could contribute new stuff. When these guys came out with Ubuntu, this was definitely the project I wanted to join. I never knew how they worked and never had dreamed of working with them as well as was never active on the international mailing lists and only contributed back at home. I did contribute to KDE but never to anything else and big. I joined the KDE Journal guys because of my advanced XML and Markup experience."

Looking into the future, "I am really good at the basics and I am looking into the future. Ubuntu gives me an idea about what I should do in the future. The Ubuntu Team itself is really unaware of the popularity of Ubuntu in this region, yes, they know we use it, but they don't know that one of Asia's largest and foremost geek training camps like Asia Source uses a lot of Ubuntu for empowering so many people from NGOs and SMEs still being a very highly untapped market. India and China are definitely large users of Ubuntu but the rest of South East Asia is even growing at a faster pace on FOSS especially when our regions are moving towards cheaper bandwidth and universal access."

Participating within local FOSS communities, "I was part of local FOSS community in my country, with good English speaking subscribers and to discuss technical and political issues related to FOSS at Philippines Linux Users Group where I got in contact with the the very first Eric Pareja, one of the first people that introduced Linux into the country. He was not that much involved with software development but was involved in localization of Debian and the GNU project with a focus towards doing localization of core applications first and then jumping into the desktop side."

Celebrating Ubuntu, "I joined Ubuntu community with my first experiences of their free Distribution CD's. Since they started giving out CD's, the first was pretty rough but the live CD ran good just like Knoppix. Hey when i saw the live CD running, I saw most of the applications to do my daily work are already there and earlier i had to use more than 4-5 CD's to install other distros. I installed the localized version of Ubuntu in Tagalog localized by Eric and his team members but it was fairly done well.

Localization in Philipines, "The concept of localized desktop in our country was considered silly since the command over English in my country is strong and there is not much need for it. If I was to do something new and really beneficial for my country. I was introduced to that had great potential to localize applications removes the typical barriers to actually do it since you could do it through a browser but its development version was still not stable. I got hold of the .PO and XML files and i started localizing things related to About Ubuntu. My contributions started being shown up on the Ubuntu CD even though it doesn't show my name, I know its there for other people to benefit."

Documenting Ubuntu, "The documentation of Ubuntu was also not that good and I visited the documentation channel asking questions, I thought since I was good at technical documentation writing,I started doing patches and eventually was given commit access sending my contributions into mainstream and direct involvement with the creators of Ubuntu. I rewrote most of the Ubuntu documentation with Mark Shuttleworth. Since a lot of people were involved with Ubuntu, they dived in. Though I am a GNOME guy, I really like to use KDE but do my stuff in GNOME. So I also made the documentation of Kubuntu. I did almost 3/4th of the documentation. Two students including Jonathan joined in to contribute to it managing us to complete it before the new real ease of Kubuntu."

Meeting the International FOSS Community, "When the Ubuntu Sprint took place in Sydney in April 2005 I was called into join them possibly due to the fact of contributing to the Ubuntu project. Doing so little had got me something so big like meeting all the great guys of Ubuntu making great contacts in the FOSS community. They were pleased that a South East Asian had contributed something great. Then I joined the Ubuntu Specifications Documentation Team giving birth to Edubuntu with specifications. I loved working with Edubuntu due to the fact that technology was not so good in education and I wanted to help people gain access to quality education technology and Edubuntu was that source."

LTSP, "I have contributed to various educational applications in Edubuntu including bug fixing. I also contributed documentation about Edubuntu as well as the testing of the distribution itself on the AMD 64 and x86 platforms. The LTSP guys helped the distribution fly being the best LTSP out-of-the-box distribution establishing a solid distribution. One of the frustrations I have with Edubuntu is that I don't know how many people use it but still I know it is paying off with people using all the good contributions that I have made to the community. Money is the second for me, my priority is doing all the good i can with my ?ls. The need now is that educators and the education community contribute back to us telling us how to make it better.

Growing with Edubuntu, "I have since then ventured into newer things along with Edubuntu and carry on debugging of applications including Bluetooth for my love of gadgets, synchronization with Palm devices, laptop testing that was actually contributed by the project. I have also prepared some specifications on testing."

author: Fouad Bajwa

Enabling Voice in the Remotest

Can FOSS drive a person's passion? Well that may be it since a man once driven by the passion for music is lead today by the far-reaching impacts of FOSS.

“I just had lots of spare time to explore and play with FOSS and now its whole new story for me, I believe FOSS is mostly driven by interest”, shares Francis Boon, an Oxford University graduate in chemistry working with Oxfam GB engaged currently as a Deputy International Support Manager, “At Oxfam, my remit is to ensure that all of our 150 field offices have a high level of support available” he quotes. He does this by coordinating standards across the 8 Regions of Oxfam's operations in conjunction with the Regional IS Managers and their IT Officers. “I embarked upon FOSS as a partime hobby but today it is part of my major ICT intervention efforts and I have worked in the remotest regions of Uganda training locals on FOSS!”

Francis has also engaged with Inveneo on certain occasions, an organization that brings Wi-Fi to Rural Areas in Africa deployed using FOSS. “My role at Inveneo has been developing solutions for enabling voice communications in the remotest regions of Uganda and have helped develop Inveneo's thin client voice terminal device. “I have really had a great experience with FOSS, it is a great technology, has good networking features and is very appropriate for widespread practical usage and you can only benefit from its real value when you get this technology on the ground in the most remotest or disadvantage regions of the world and with very small costs as compared to proprietary alternatives”.

Narrating his experiences from Inveneo while he was in Africa, Francis shared that, “Its really cost efficient to deploy FOSS but sometimes even the price of deploying such low-cost technology can also increase where there is less or no access to power. Making available alternate forms of access to power like solar battery or bicycle generated power can increase costs of the total FOSS solution in focus”.

On a question about the One Laptop Per Child OLPC project, Francis said OLPC can only be successful where it is brought in to complement existing infrastructure, “If a certain region does not have any access to the Internet for miles and miles, having OLPC there would be of lesser value to anyone.”

Regarding alternative ways to promote FOSS by Donor agencies and International NGOs Francis believes that, “From an observation point of view, a major percentage of such organizations still and will have little FOSS focus or implementations since they are receiving huge software donations by Proprietary Software giants like Microsoft and Cisco. Why? Companies like these have a strong focus on developing and sustaining markets in the developing-world countries and they will mostly tend to maintain their interest by donating their software products so that they can continuously be used to hook on people to their products even in countries where the cost of licensing has always been more than their incomes.”

Despite such efforts by the proprietary corporates, Francis optimistically believes that there still are limits to how much such a practice may survive since FOSS being driven by interest encourages people that have a desire to use technology and alternative ways will always be explored to use it opposed to proprietary software, its only a matter of realizing the impact of FOSS”. Supporting his perspective, Francis said that, “If one uses FOSS in a corporate or business environment, they first save costs and that cost can be directed towards scaling up an IT project, tailoring solutions according to local needs and strengthening other areas that may otherwise be deprived due to budgetary constraints. For example, such savings can strengthen Human Resource and increase the potential scope of Trainings”.

Francis also carried out a demonstration of the voice terminal client he had developed for Inveneo at Asia Source and believes its time to bring Inveneo FOSS and Wi-Fi access solutions to South East Asia for common benefit.

author: Fouad Bajwa

* Article is also available at:""

FOSS Based Wealth Generation Serving a Cause

Yolynne N. Medina, 30, carries a degree in Computer Engineering from the Universidad De Zamboanga formerly Zamboanga Arturo Eustaquio Colleges, Philippines.

"In 1998, I started working on System Administration jobs for Internet cafes for 3 years, and got a job as a it instructor in a public school for three years and then a job as a junior IT specialist and Instructor teaching software. Since May 2006, I have held a position as an Academy IT instructor for E-Learning Center at a Cisco Networking Academy teaching basic networking programmes."

Learning Linux, " My husband tried introducing me to Linux back in 1999 but couldn't grip it even though my husband was a real geek. Only two weeks prior to the Linux World 2005 I attempted learning Ubuntu Linux and also met the Philipines Ubuntu Group. With the regained inspiration, right after three months, I organized the a two day event titled FOSS@Zamboanga from March 13-14, 2006 aiming to introduce FOSS in her region, Western Mindanao."

FOSS@Zamboanga, "The event received participation from more than 500 attendees ranging from students to professionals and the event itself was funded by the Local Government. We also distributed Ubuntu T-Shirts, Bags and 1000 CDs sponsored by Ubuntu." CDs 1000 sponsored from Ubuntu."

"I joined a small organization with my friend called Mindanao Open Source Society to network together FOSS enthusiasts, advocate the use of FOSS for students and officially held the first online meeting in January 2006. I am also part of the Ubuntu Women Programme since December 2006 but the programme still yet being finalized formerly whereas I am regularly attending online meetings on Free node IRC".

Reaching local community, "After our FOSS@Zamboanga event in October, i was able to motivate 4 people from my region including my husband to attend the IOSN Train the Trainer activity and 2 of the participants including my husband got Linux Professional Institute certified. Also the same school I am teaching at is now being migrated by us to FOSS."

Setting the target, "My idea is to target education and my vision is that about 5 years from now young people in my community will have good FOSS knowledge since it is part of their curriculum now. FOSS exploits the curiosity of youth, makes them feel that FOSS is cool and makes them see the fascinating stuff. By the way, today, being a FOSS guy or girl is really a cool kind of topic for them. They are already into using VOIP, SIP, Gizmos etc."

FOSS business, "Only three months ago, me and my husband created an Internet Shop for public school students residing nearby and offered Internet access for only 10 Pesos per hour. We have invested in 9 refurbished computers carrying Web Cams. At the moment we are running FOSS on Windows to create the attraction. We are also also promoting FOSS within core groups serving and supporting the community. i have the money already to sell FOSS souvenirs. We got official permission from Ubuntu for printing some shirts and selling them for fundraising purposes.

"I want to get investors to explore the revenue making opportunities available with FOSS. We are also looking forward to setting up a foundation titled "Geek Kids Foundation" for disabled children that will receive FOSS training developing Information Technology skills thus will become more productive for their communities and seek jobs in the Philippine IT industry as programmers or Desktop Technical Support providers. My perception has always been to make money serving a cause so that I can reinvest into growing my business and serving more people and larger communities with ICTs, especially the children. I have planned to create living examples of making wealth out of FOSS"!

author: Fouad Bajwa

* Article is also available at: ""

Future Disaster Management with SAHANA

"Sahana Disaster Management System is a FOSS solution for managing relief operation information during disasters around the world. We were there with Sahana for Tsunami, we were there with Sahana for the Earth Quake in Pakistan and we were there again with Sahana for the Mud Slide in the Philipines, we are also available for everyone who wants to include Sahana for their Disaster Management Policies for the future anywhere around the world," shares Ravindra D'Silva from the University of Maratuao, Sri Lanka, the development home of Sahana.

Ramindra is a Software Engineering graduate working with the Lanka Software Foundation LSF, developers of Sahana at the University. "I joined FOSS through the Sahana project getting all the encouragement from Sahana developer Mifan Careem. I am employed full time by the LSF that is a nonprofit organization with the mission of promoting FOSS projects in Sri Lanka whereas Sahana Disaster Management System  is one of the globally recognized projects that LSF drives. Along with this, I have been serving at the University as a visiting lecturer with the Department of Computer Science and Engineering and also work with FOSS customization including popular CMS and solutions like Drupal CMS, Dspace and Sugar CRM."

Implementing Sahana, "Sahana was deployed with Sarvodaya, the largest local NGO in Sri Lanka. Sahana has now also entered Phase-3 of its development and is ready for deployment and the objective of this phase is to stabilizing the system and bug fixing without adding any newer features. Our organization is also undertaking extensive research activity and has recently received funding from the NSF-National Science Foundation USA and are also looking forward to the approval of another proposal. Our knowledge contributions to the IEEE have also been accepted including the research paper titled 'Sahana Disaster Management System'. The paper has been accepted by ICIA-IEEE Conference. The Sahana development strategy also involves hiring 10 volunteers and this year we are inducting 17 internees".

"The local response to Sahana in Sri Lanka has been very low where as other countries are continuously looking at options where they can deploy Sahana for Pre-Disaster Management in their countries. For example, Philippines used the Sahana in response to the Mud Slide and now have it as an important component of their National Disaster Management Policy. The measures that these countries keep in mind during adopting Sahana include both pre-deployment before disasters and post-deployment, after the disaster. Now Red Cross and ICRC also use Sahana".

"Within Sri Lanka, we have never actually approached the government and moreover, we are lucky to have no disasters in the country after the Tsunami. During the Tsunami, Sahana was used for two months after the disaster and recorded information on over 10,000 families within the disaster affected regions. Eventually, after that we have been unable to create any contacts within the government to further promote its use with Disaster Management planning however, we are very optimistic that Sahana will continue to be further accepted by the International community."

Detailing on maintenance strategy, "What we do for Sahana is all totally free. We provide it free of charge but do not offer maintenance since the objective is to develop and deploy Sahana providing a stable Disaster Management System. When we transfer all the documentation and tools to the end user, it is expected for them to develop a team, we train them and they maintain the system. We have also added general features like GIS earlier to Sahana and are also focusing its use within general situations that makes it FOSS that is more usable in other areas".

FOSS in Sri Lanka, "The situation of FOSS in Sri Lanka is a bit grim due to the fact that there are very few Linux User Groups and organizations supporting FOSS. It has also been a bit difficult moving people to FOSS due to software piracy in the region. The LSF efforts however a moving the situation into a more positive direction. We have already conducted over 6 events both regional and international. In September 2007 this year we are organizing the Open Office Conference for the first time in the region and in the past have organized Asia's first ApacheCon. Still there are only three to four companies running a complete or partial FOSS or Linux infrastructure in the country but they are not contributing back to the FOSS community and neither do they service the local business and industry. However, we are working towards changing that situation by conducting two workshops per month at the University inviting stakeholders." 

The struggle, "Multinational closed software giants are struggling against the Linux User Group in Sri Lanka. The LUG has over 400 members on its mailing list and there is a significant increase daily in technical discussions on FOSS and Linux in particular. Almost every Sri Lankan University is either aware of FOSS or is practically teaching short programmes on Linux and System Administration but the daily or regular use of Linux itself may only be around 1000-1500 users in the country. For graduate level jobs, students need to learn Microsoft skills to be successful in the current market ecosystem. Two years ago, Microsoft gave free licenses to Universities and carried out many conferences in support of their strategy. Now Microsoft is even trying to restrict Dual Boot Access under their licensing within the Government"

Open Content is really missing in Sri Lanka and there is a great need to introduce such means and methodologies whereby the Sri Lankan academic and development sectors can promote Open Content.

author: Fouad Bajwa

Jumping into the Water and Learning to Swim

"My name is B.N Jagadeesh, and I work with the Alternative Law Forum, a Bangalore based organization addressing the issues related to Intellectual Property Rights, Gender, Sexuality and Human Rights and I myself practice Criminal Law while also pursuing Copyrights and the FOSS Movement. Apart from all that, I work to help our offices on Linux" shares the young Lawyer and Linux Administrator from India. "As an organization we believe in that information should be available freely to the people as well as believe in piracy and used pirated versions of Windows".

Jagdeesh's experience with Linux began during Asia Source 1 in Bangalore as, "We wanted to move to linux quite long ago and we were not quite sure that what it does and practically how would migration work. During Asia Source, people came to our office and taught us how to use linux and migrating our Windows environment over to it."

Detailing on his experiences, "We are extensively carrying out research with respect to laws, creating awareness of licensing, to people and particularly women. We work on a range of different issues. I work in practical aspects of law, more towards liberation. My engagement is with FOSS, helping with bug fixing at ALF. I do trainings all around Karnataka State on various issues including sexuality, rights of the women, rights of the marginal set of people, human rights and use FOSS based computers for training and advocate the importance of FOSS to all of my audiences, but still, there are quite a few people who actually migrate over to FOSS".

In the very near future right after the Asia Source 2 Camp, "I need to help an organization called Manthan-Social Development Research that addresses on issues related to Water and Dams in the Madhyaperades State in India migrate over to FOSS from Windows to Linux". Relating problems that Jagdeesh faces during migration activities include, "People still continue to consider Windows to be more user friendly "Blue Screen Syndrome", first of all people have a blue screen or blue desktop block in their mind and therefore Linux is not easy to use, and fail to even take that first attempt at FOSS. It will be really great if trainings do deal with FOSS on Windows since Dual Boot worked for us or pure Linux Desktop training only for organizations without any training at all".

"One thing I do use to my advantage is politics, that, most of the time organizations do not want to be associated with Microsoft issues related to copyright and information should be open to people. Microsoft no longer guarantees your data security and it is 100% your responsibility to take care of the issues, increase ownership, and returning from this camp, I will possibly be more resourced to migrate future prospects easily."

Sharing his thoughts on the severity of the situation of FOSS adoption issues in India, Jagdeesh feels that, "Primarily, we have a usual dilemma called the 'Window to Linux and Back Dilemma', the reason being lack of an understanding of what the real problem is that needs to be tackled or reported to technical support that is adequately available throughout the country now. if I look around and do find sufficient amount of technical support especially through online chat and forums. Its always not easy to ask the solution the very first time since one doesn't know the problem and faces more problems in explaining the problem to the technical support online or on the phone."

"Within ALF, our decisions for replacing Windows with Linux were encouraged by Windows itself since it was creating problems of continuous crashes and virus infections. The Linux decision was encouraged by its reliability and stability. Initially we set up a Dual Boot System environment where Linux and Windows both ran on the same computer so that we could explore what was compatible. Our changeover was also made possible through Games on Linux as I used them to attract our colleagues to use it. We saw that KDE was almost very near to the usual Windows experience and Mandrake supported Power Point files, PDF documents and found Firefox to be very stable for Internet Browsing.

Sharing his own initial troubles and possible solutions, "I was unable to find support in Bangalore in the beginning and was a self-taught System Administrator on Linux with technical support from searching Google or Online Community and remember that originally I am only a practicing Lawyer. I really had lots of problems with wireless card configurations as well as other hardware issues. I believe that more education is needed in India. We need capacity development on the understanding of the problem or at least enough to identify such issues as well as promote technical knowledge sharing. Core capacity areas include ratification of compatibility issues, exchange of files, making Power Point Presentations display embedded video".

Human Resource continues to be a very critical issue for the NGO sector. "Initially an external administrator gave our office visits very late in the day to fix any Linux issues since we did not know how to fix them due to the fact, we never knew the problem. If organizations have such visiting staff or just a single in house support engineer, their Linux migrations crash as soon as they leave and its back to Windows in most cases. The other challenge I feel is that engaging users with the system. Also prior to Linux there were a lot of Data losses, virus attacks and other unavoidable problems that we had used to advantage our decision but that is not always the case with others. Another issue where Linux has instant problems is that if there are any hardware problems or people cannot work it out including device drivers, they say Linux is not good and its not easy as Windows, they attribute almost every problem in the technology world to Linux that only tends to be ignorance and not reality."

Jagdeesh shares some very interesting lessons from his experiences, "I failed to get proper solutions to various Linux problems since I am a Lawyer but still one has to jump into the water and learn to swim. One should also never underestimate the value of games on Linux. Playing with the Linux Command line to take control of the computer as well as computers over the network and find out as much as you can about what is really interesting to you and this encourages you to continuously explore solutions to your problems."

His objective to participate in the Source camps is, "I am still not sure about how migration practically works since we just deleted Windows and installed Mandrake Linux and now we are running SUSE Linux." Jagdeesh is still interested to learn more about FOSS and the Creative Commons.

author: Fouad Bajwa

* Article is also available at:""

Sure Ways to Change The World for Philipines

"I am Myra Jill Siason, a 26 year old IT and education enthusiast from the Philippines currently connected with the University of the Philippines Diliman Interactive Learning Center (UP-DILC). This organization is tasked to cater to the needs of the University faculty in terms of teaching materials and learning objects creations and we assist the faculty with the use of technology" shares an inspiring Myra, a FOSS Advocate from the Philipines. "We would like to develop University faculty members who are really technology savy by educating them in the proper use and integration of technology in their teaching pedagogy", she says.

"The objectives undertaken by us include making the faculty aware of alternative FOSS software for their use in the classroom therefore we conduct 3-5 day trainings for Open Office depending on the user's needs and specifications. The program is extended to different colleges inviting their faculty to attend the lectures and workshops. The University community will be made more aware of choices they can make in terms of technology. Faculty will also be better equipped to handle the type of learners of today who live in a very digital world. We are also trying to address specific needs of the faculty and as much as possible, compare what they have now and teach them the alternatives. We have conducted some trainings but will be carrying out more during this year as soon as the content as well as the call for training participation has been finalized."

On the collaboration front, the University is redeveloping an Online Classroom Management System developed using FOSS using a Computer Science thesis revising the current system called University Vitual Learning Environment UvLe. Having the project handled by UP-DILC ensures that proper educational theories and practices will be applied to this technology and not just have technology driven software. "The Online Classroom Management System will be deployed campuswide within the entire University of the Philippines system covering 7 campuses all over the country. This can help ensure quality of teaching, integration and collaboration of information including resources. The System will also allow a more acessible way to provide information and enrich learning for the students. There is great need to have a locally developed program to cater to Online Classroom Management Systems so that specific needs of the faculty and students can be accommodated. It is still in the student project beta stage and is waiting funding for campuswide development and deployment from the administration".

"We are also looking forward to conduct appropriate training for specific end-users for Linux. We are conducting trainings for for Junior Linux System Administrators spanned over 2 weeks. We are also holding trainings in coordination with the IOSN ASEAN+3 for LPI certification of the trainees since having more Linux Certified Professionals ensures better local support. It is important to ensure trainees are from almost the same background to ensure proper pacing of the lectures. .  We have conducted 2 trainings already and are planning more trainings for the current year".

"We are challenged with projects as they help the University faculty be better at what they do, which is to facilitate the learning of today's students. I really believe strongly in the importance of teachers awareness of FOSS because they can then impart this knowledge to their students who in turn can make changes when they engage with the business and industry as soon as they graduate that would also lead to a change in the world!"

Myra's stress is on proper and correct education or training is very important for assuring the longterm use of FOSS.  "What is essential is knowing the type of learners and users you will be dealing with and creating material and courseware that would suit them. Also, thank you for this oppurtunity to share what little I know.  Never stop learning!".

author: Fouad Bajwa

The Great Leap For Bangladesh

Jamil Ahmed, FOSS Advocate joins in from a Dhaka, Bangladesh where he also professionally works as a Project Manager in a local software development firm, "In my free time I lead a small voluntary group named Ankur ( Along with this, currently I am the maintainer of bn_BD glibc local, Bengali localization for GNOME, GAIM, Open, Fedora core, Mandriva Linux, SUSE Linux and Debian GNU/Linux installer".

"My core contribution is towards localizing FOSS to Bangla/Bengali and also fix Bangla/Bengali related bugs. It also organizes FOSS seminars, workshops and camps in various local universities and advocates the use of FOSS in various avenues of life. In short, Ankur makes people aware about FOSS, Localizing popular and important FOSS to Bangla/Bengali, Searching and Fixing Bangla/Bengali related bugs in FOSS

The great leap, "Till now we have either localized or are localizing popular GNU/Linux distributions, Open Office suite, Instant Messenger, Firefox Internet Browser, Thunderbird Email Client. The localization process for the volunteers is self-learned and researched carried forward from their remote locations spread out throughout both Bangladesh, India and other countries collaborating and communicating extensively using the Internet. In most of the cases, none of the volunteers have met each other face to face. POT and XML files are used to carryout and add localized version of the language so we download the latest POT files, merge them with the existing ones where needed and start working on it.

Code Freeze, "Generally we work after 'String Freeze' till the deadline to submit translations. During String Freezes, no new developments are added to the codes but only the strings of text in the interface are edited.

Self empowerment, "To facilitate the volunteers we have some automated tools - built by our own volunteers. We have a standard terminology list with localized values."

Machine translator: The translator is written in PERL, it takes an empty PO/T file and auto-translates it using our standard word list.

The Online English to Bangla/Bengali dictionary: It is written in PERL and accessible via the Internet. It uses our standard word list. If there is a missing word in the database, then the user can submit their suggestions that will then be incorporated in the standard database after verification.

English to Bangla/Bengali machine translator: It is written in PERL and has both online and offline versions.

Taking the leap, "We have already released two localized LiveCDs based on Morphix and Knoppix. Also, recently we have released an install version based on Ubuntu but the Desktop will be in the Bangla/Bengali project. The respected ISOs are already hosted and made available through SourceForge. Our focus is to help facilitate the ISO burned onto CDs to users and stakeholders that do not have access to any good or any internet connection. Our team of volunteers also demonstrates the software to different places where we do camps, seminars and demonstrations. During these events participants get very excited to watch localized operating system. Some Government Organizations, NGOs and Nonprofit orgnaizations have an interest for deploying our GNU/Linux distro but we lack the capability to provide them with 24/7 full time or dedicated support and they are doing partial migrations from Windows to FOSS. Generally they use localized OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Thunderbird or even dualboot as a start.

Needs and wants, "We need to encourage the evolution of a commercial FOSS Ecosystem within the country and establish technical support centres. ICT training centres should provide FOSS training. We need marketing and branding strategies, both International and localized to market and position FOSS making it as visible as the proprietary industry are trying to compete with it. We are also seeking longterm donor support in order to arrange the funds to engage more volunteers throughout the country on a regular basis. e need to arrange FOSS camping/seminar more often.

What works for us, "Members of the Young generation are the ones that are always willing to learn more thus FOSS capacity development efforts should be directed towards students. FOSS promotion and awareness should always involve some aspects of fun and entertrainment for students to be be more usefully engaged. We arrange such camps and seminars on FOSS once in a month at universities. The localization process is always under way. Generally we start working after string freeze of specific FOSS development.

How we benefit others, "We benefit others through helping them gain access to ICTs enabled through FOSS with localized software in particular. The second way is a mutual learning process that basically improves FOSS development including learning new things that general people asks for.

The upcomming challenge, "We are continuously facing the shortage of volunteers and the lack of funding partners to fund our activities so that we may operate in a sustainable manner.

Success factors, "At LinuxAsia 2006 held at Delhi, India - Ankur was awarded best .ORG project. I was also selected to attend the Debian i18n session which held at Extremadura, Spain on Sep 2006 - sponsored by their Local government.

author: Fouad Bajwa

The Path to Productivity - Bengali Localization in India

"I'm Sayamindu Dasgupta, a student and FOSS enthusiast from the Eastern part of India. I am involved with a number of organizations inclusive the FSF India, GNOME, AnkurBangla, etc. However, my first love is always AnkurBangla," shares Sayamindu. "It's an umbrella group for handling all the work related to support for the Bangla (Bengali) language in FOSS. When we started out, our goal was to have 'Bangla support in popular Xserver based applications'. Along the course of the project, it was extended to include other interesting tools like having Bangla spellcheckers, Optical Character Recognition, Text to Speech engines, etc. Moreover, we had recognized the need for FOSS advocacy as well, and some of us right now are quite famous as FOSS advocates in our region."

Immediate applications, "I personally see the greatest application of Bangla localization in education, especially in school education. Children learn best when the material is presented in their mother language, thus localized software is an ideal tool for education in such scenarios. Another application of localized software is in the area of electronic governance, for example, in Government to Citizen (G2C) kiosks and public service delivery through the Internet, etc".

Developing the right process, "AnkurBangla is a very loosely managed project - with a lot of different sub projects. We communicate via mailing lists and use tools like SVN, CVS, etc to handle our source code. The bulk of our work is translation and we usually do translation reviews in the mailing list itself. We usually follow the schedules of various projects like GNOME,, etc for the various translation projects. For our software projects (right now, mainly machine translation tool), we use the release early, release often policy".

Building a real castle, "In India, we are working on a project called CASTLE (Computer Aided School Teaching Learning Environment) which is basically a combination of localized software running on thin client machines (LTSP) in the madrashahs of our state. At present we are talking with a large bank and trying to figure out an agreement where they will be giving us a large number of their old PCs for recycling/reuse. A large number of users are also using Bangla, and I have even seen printers specifying that they will accept Bangla page layouts done in"

Creating the right impact, "Localization is a top priority set forth by the Government of India right now, and we are considered to be one of the leading experts in local language technology for Bangla. The people know us and especially people from the FOSS sector. There is a large number of people that are working with Bangla, and I have heard people being very satisfied with the bug free nature of (compared to other proprietary Bangla word processors)."

There is always a lesson in life, "We have learnt many lessons from our efforts including that it is difficult to keep people motivated in a localization project where the bulk of the work done is translation of a particular language. If we need to do deployment, we need to get widely recognized first, and we need to do a lot of advocacy for the masses. It is also difficult for people who are already using non-localized software to switch to localized versions of a software. The best idea is to target first time learners as they are sustainable users of FOSS."

State of affairs, "We have a basic spellchecker, a basic machine translator and I am working on a text to speech engine for adding localized accessibility support to FOSS. A member of our group is also working on an OCR (Optical Character Recognition). One of the unique aspects of our localization project is an archival project (I don't know of any other localization project that does something similar) where we have put online digital versions of copyright expired works in Bangla (like Bangla Project Gutenberg). But all of this is done manually and we need a OCR fast. With respect to translation, we have almost finished core GNOME. Jamil from Ankur is doing a fantastic job on and there are people who have translated XFCE and Firefox".

The challenge, "For me personally, I do it just for fun (mainly), I also guess that someone should do it for his own language and I don't have any problems if I have to be that guy"!

author: Fouad Bajwa

There is Always a First Step

Carmela N Bona, a young 23 year old graduate of Communication Arts from the University of the Philippines in Mindanao.

"I graduated in April 2005 and then in May 2005, joined the the Mindanao Business Council, as a Communications Assistant also working at the same time as a Technical Project Assistant for the Chamber Management Institute. We developed modules for the Mindanao that is a non-gov and a member organization. My organization is a network of Chambers of Commerce and Business Councils and our objective is to support and strengthen chambers to further establish organizations".

"Only last year, members of my unit resigned and I took over as Communications Officer and now I have the responsibilities for managing the Quarterly Magazine, Website content with the MIS Officer who works on the technical aspects, design press releases and provide members and trustees of the council with updates on what it is doing." Carmela's work also includes the design of brochures, managing media relations and press conferences.

"I've heard about FOSS before in college, our Computer Learning Center Lab was using Linux but i have always found Linux to be not user friendly thus this discouraged me to actually use it. FOSS is also not used in my office as such but what we do have is only a single computer and laptop running Open Office, all the rest are just running Microsoft Windows.  Even I myself lacked the awareness to go about FOSS along with my organization and then one day, our Executive Director emailed us a copy of the invitation to Asia Source and he was interested for me to attend Track 01 of the camp called 'Open Publishing and Broadcasting'  so that I could then apply the skills learnt directly to my work."

Carmela shares various problems for adoption of FOSS in her organization at large, "Our Council first requires FOSS Capacity Building to shift over from Microsoft. One issue that prevents us to do is that we work within tight deadlines and you don't have time to try anything else, just use something that is fast and easy to use! The only strategy to work with our Council would be encouraging negotiations and meetings with the management and staff intro ducting  FOSS and conduct demonstrations once they are interested. Larger trainings would be a later requirement."

The possible issues that Carmela faces are,"We may face problems related to breaking our users away from Windows since that is what they were initially trained on and based upon their previous learning, it will be hard to convince them to make the shift over. However, another option may be to use dual boot environments on user desktops so that they may experience the Linux environment but again the workloads. There is a great need to create an initial interest for the users to actually try Linux or at least Open Office. Secondly I believe that if Linux is somehow introduced or adopted by the Council, it will be beneficial in extending FOSS to the Council's member organizations and associations since empowering the council with FOSS means empowering its members as well".

"Another issue with any organization is the supply and level of technical support. It will be really hard to develop in house technical support capacity to support FOSS in the council since its focus is not on technical support and that should be bought in from a vendor and there should be a number of vendors available in the market that I have actually not yet come upon". She also has a strategy in mind to take the first step towards FOSS realization, "As soon as I get back from Asia Source 2, I will conduct an introductory seminar and training for 15 people in my office that will help me share what I have learnt from the camp with my colleagues. I may still have to go a very long way before we actually add more hardware running Open Office and other FOSS tools to the existing two computers only but what I have seen from this camp is that lots of people from all around the world are using FOSS and gaining lots of benefit and I will definitely be exploring new things".

author: Fouad Bajwa