FOSS is rejected by CAN InfoTech Nepal

Posted by pravenj on Jan 13, 2010 1:19 PM EDT
FOSS Nepal; By pravenj
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Every year, for the last couple of years, FOSS community Nepal has been getting a small stall to showcase whatever they have to the unusually large mass that come to witness the event. Not that FOSS is going anywhere in Nepal, but still that opportunity to try and create awareness existed. From this year onwards FOSS community is not going to be able to do that too as they have been told that due to lack of space they will not be able to put up a stall.

CAN (Computer Association of Nepal) InfoTech is the largest IT products and services show in Nepal featuring nearly all who is who's of the computer and IT world. This year the program is going to be organized on the 16-17 of January and is sponsored by HP and Samsung.

Every year, for the last couple of years, FOSS community Nepal has been getting a small stall to showcase whatever they have to the unusually large mass that come to witness the event. Not that FOSS is going anywhere in Nepal, but still that opportunity to try and create awareness existed. From this year onwards FOSS community is not going to be able to do that too as they have been told that due to lack of space they will not be able to put up a stall.

FOSS Nepal is a loosely knit group of FOSS enthusiasts (mainly students) who are trying to create awareness about FOSS and Linux in Nepal. As most of the members are volunteers, FOSS suffers largely from availability of budgets. To compensate for this CAN had been providing a small (let me repeat that) stall to FOSS Nepal to use. From this year this is gone. And to add fuel to the fire this year the program is organized as a special showcase for MS Windows 7.

In Nepal FOSS is not a wide spread phenomenon. The two main reasons for this are:

1. Rampant use of pirated software. Today, people and organizations using non-pirated software in Nepal are a rare breed. Due to this Nepali people have come to associate that when one buys computer hardware, any software is included free of cost. Most of the time the hardware is pre-loaded with Windows and MS products. So the whole of Nepal believes that computer means Windows and nothing else. Good from an MS point of view.

2. Lack of Awareness about FOSS. I have heard, read and viewed many stories about efforts to bring in FOSS technology to poor and least developed nations. Many people and organizations have touted as FOSS being the right technology to bridge the ever-widening digital divide. I have also come to know that lots of money has been poured even in countries like Nepal to create awareness about FOSS. My feeling is the recipients are making the money pourers happy and in turn the money has been poured down the wrong drain.

An incident that comes to mind is when the Tax Officers from the Nepal Government came to do a Tax audit of my school systems, they accused me of trying to cheat them by using a system that they did not know (Ubuntu Linux) and an accounting software that they could not trust (GnuCash). They said they had to print the data themselves in a specific format and remanded me for making them use OpenOffice Spreadsheet in place of MS Excel. They have told me personally that when they come the next time they would want MS Windows, Ex or Tally (2 accounting softwares that are commonly used in Nepal) and MS Excel to print out data in their specific formats.

All this said much room remains for FOSS in Nepal, but at this point in time the desperation of the FOSS community can be felt from their Google group discussions. This was one big platform, if they could not change an entire mass, they could at least change one person at a time. But, again opportunity is lost.

What would be a good idea is for the FOSS community to host its own show and paper presentation seminar talking FOSS and nothing else. Have they tried it? Yes, once, but due to dire lack of budget and professional preparation the program was largely unsuccessful. Can it be done again? Yes, but the resource constraints have to be met this time around. I think this is the time that FOSS communities and organizations around the world can help.

The possible help that communities and organizations around the world can give are:

1. To coordinate their agents here in Nepal to be more FOSS friendly. Most of the big companies have agents here in Nepal selling their products and services. Companies like IBM and Dell have been around for a long time and the last time I did a rain check these companies were still big in preaching FOSS around the world. Maybe some of these big companies have to show a little bit more love for Nepal in terms of FOSS.

2. Nepal has been used as examples for the innovative works done in FOSS. I think most of us have heard people like Professor Nicholas Negroponte and others talk about their technology being fit for countries like Nepal. Maybe these people need to come forth and talk to people in Nepal about these technologies rather than use Nepal as their marketing tool only. Mahabir Pun's community network has also been citied in many marketing gimics around the world. That network uses a lot of FOSS tools. Instead of only talking only in International arena about it, maybe people can come forth to talk about it more in Nepal itself.

3. Help run awareness campaigns here. Experiences shared is knowledge gained.

4. Help run a FOSS show here by donating money, experience and technical expertise.

Besides these a lot more can be done and this is just an appeal to all out there to come out with ideas that can help foster FOSS in Nepal.

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FOSS reality dinoshrestha 0 1,261 Jan 14, 2010 4:05 AM

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