Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Techie canvassed for Open Source movement in schools

Technical expert with the Kofi Annan Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Centre, Accra-Ghana, Mr. Kwasi Kwakwa, has called for an open source movement in education.

Speaking recently in Accra, Mr. Kwakwa outlined the reasons why Information Technology (IT) is very crucial in education generally, mostly deploying a free and Open Source software.

Defined as a computer application for which the human-readable source code is made available under a non-financial induced copyright license, Open Source permits users to deploy, use, change and improve the software in addition to the available of redistribute either in modified or unmodified form.

According to Mr. Kwakwa, some of the advantages of deploying Open Source in education to include financial, openness, breadth of available tools, and long term implications.

He stressed that one good thing about Open Source financially, is that institutions of learning could deploy it for free devoid of strictly financial commitment with the ability to access the source codes at will and to the suitability of the individual or organisation but apparently cheaper anytime, anyday.

“Its simply cheaper to provide access to computing facilities with Open Source to tons of schools if you aren’t paying site licenses for all your software,” he said.

He pointed out that there are lots of available open source tool codes to customize the deployment to the users taste.

This, he noted, would accelerate the general penetration of IT literacy, especially in making educational information accessible for students both in developing and advanced countries.

“It offers equal reading literacy in today’s world,” he declared.

He emphasised that nowadays, everything is becoming a computer given that the mobile phone people carry about probably has more processing power than an early computer.

“And so does your car engine, music players, watches to name a few. We now embed microprocessors in almost everything,” he asserted, adding that the Internet is the largest free repository of information the world has ever known.

He equally said that as with a lot of things Africa has been behind on this trend, which has put the continent further at a competitive disadvantage and that is something Africa needs to rectify urgently.

“Especially if we actually intend to catch up with the rest of the world and not just pay lip service to the idea,” he asserted.

Comparing Open Source Software (OSS) and proprietary software, Mr. Kwakwa, for instance, saying that Inkscape, an OSS model could compare favourably with Adobe Illustrator, Scribus against Quarkxpress, GIMP and Kile Photoshop, Open Office against Microsoft Office, Firefox against Internet Explorer among several others.

OSS, he added, runs on everything from mobile phones to supercomputers, which means that even old computer which could barely run windows could still be made to run decently and reduces how often users need to upgrade.

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