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Advanced African Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Business Models Training PDF Print E-mail
The Inwent supported face to face ICT@INNOVATION training that focused on promoting FOSS in Africa and creating avenues for entrepreneurs to make money was successfully launched in Kampala. The training which took place from August 31 to September 11, 2009 attracted participants from Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Uganda and South Africa, a fair representation of especially the Eastern part of Africa. This time the subject of discussion was how to promote the FOSS philosophy while making money out of it.

Whereas many computer users believe FOSS is not very user friendly, most techies have found FOSS very reliable and sustainable. The perception of the users therefore seems to be driven by lack of knowledge in the developments in FOSS. FOSS has actually evolved so much that today’s user may actually end up using it without noticing any differences. Some of the easier applications to adopt have been applications like Ubuntu, Suse Linux Desk Top & Edubuntu!
The training focused on skills that would allow easy promotion of FOSS applications and included skills in advocacy, community & direct marketing as well as Project Management among others. The course facilitated the development of business models that would work for Africa, the question however remained, "why promote FOSS and convince Africans to adopt these applications?"

In pursuit of the answer to this question, the philosophy behind FOSS encourages communities to work together and develop software applications that directly serve their needs. In addition creating vendor independent software, customizable to the core specific needs of the owner. The software in many cases allows upscaling and integration when required. Universities being key in research and innovation may also find the FOSS philosophy as a preferred alternative for skills development among the ICT students in the software industry.

It is notable today that major Universities in the region are offering trainings in pre-defined company owned software. We believe these institutions should focus on training their students from first principles and coming up with new innovative solutions for the region. The current approach does not fully encourage innovation and perpetuates dependency on big software giants.
Encouragingly today, it is more common to see FOSS applications in use in the private sector, civil society and some universities especially in areas of database management, server administration and website development. These organizations are already benefiting from the independence of applying this software and accessing local support where available as compared to some of the expensive proprietary software support mechanisms where experts are flown in to carry out support activities.

Most of the participants at the training actually represented Universities from their countries and shared experiences of ICT education which to a large extent is a very virgin area that needs more curriculum development. The Information age has presented challenges to areas like education and government bureaucracies in keeping up with the changes in technology due to its nature of continuous speedy evolution. These challenges can be overcome by faster decision making, continuous capacity building and delegation of authority.

The private sector however on the other hand can take advantage of these challenges as opportunities to support government institutions and the education sector.
It is on this premise that the participants found this training to be of strategic value in developing the famous triple helix concept of research and innovation (Universities), private sector (commercialization) and Government (enabling environment) working together to build the continent.
EACOSS is one organization that has embraced this new and unique approach to business working with the two other sectors (government and universities) to deliver appropriate solutions starting right from capacity building, pilots to implementation. EACOSS will focus on developing solutions that may be deployed by the business affiliates that will focus on selling and management of the support mechanisms. Interestingly, EACOSS shall use commercial entities like Linux Solutions & Asili Richlands to carry out the business of selling and customer support for some of these products. It is our opinion and belief that this is the surest way to make impact in Africa.
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