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Friday, February 24, 2012

Open Source: Making the world a better place



Adoption of open source software development by Nigerian youths have proven to be a foundation for bridging digital gap that could spur job creation in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), writes REMMY NWEKE.
Eluwole Oluseyi
The first time Mazi Uche Amanze, a Lagos socialite from the eastern part of Nigeria heard of ‘Ovi,’ he thought it was one of those Niger Deltan names, but searching further, he discovered that Ovi has a Finnish connotation, which means ‘door’ especially in this world of mobile devices.

 A Google search took him to an open source-based online free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, which stated that Ovi is a Nokia outlet brand which was proclaimed on August 29, 2007 at the Go Play event in London, just as the public beta version was released a year later, on August 28, 2008.

Experts at another free online encyclopedia reputed for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) terms, the Webopedia, defined ‘Open Source’ as generically, referring to a programme in which the source code is available to the general public for use and or modification from its original design free of charge; which often is created as a collaborative effort in which programmers improve upon the code and share the changes within the community.

Open source growth, he learnt, came from the technological community as a response to proprietary software owned by corporations. Though certification standard issued by the Open Source Initiative (OSI) indicates that the source code of a computer programme is made available free of charge to the general public, with rationale that a larger group of programmers not concerned with proprietary ownership or financial gains would produce a more useful and bug-free product for everyone to use.

However, Mazi Amanze also found out that Nokia recently acquired key building blocks for Ovi including the intellectual property (IP), patents and core components such as synchronization. In addition to acquiring the IP, patents comprised of companies such as Starfish Software, Intellisync, NAVTEQ, Gate5, Plazes and others, while other components have been developed internally.

On May 20, 2009, at the Where 2.0 event in San Jose, California, United States of America (USA), Nokia proclaimed the release of the Ovi Maps Player API, which allows web developers to embed Ovi Maps into a website using JavaScript.

General Manager, Nokia West Africa, Mr. Chris Brown
Speaking on the relationship of Ovi and open source applications, the Product Manager at Nokia West Africa, Mr. Olumide Balogun told ITRealms Online in an exclusive chat that open source affords developers to play with codes, thereby creating more jobs.

Developers, he said, like open source to play with in order to come up with something new bearing in mind that the future of the internet is its openness, hence enabling everyone to see each other’s efforts at making the world a better place, and very easy based on codes.

“It allows us to build a better product, there are people who can build better ideas and this can only happen when you allow people to play around your own code, though there are usually guidelines,” he said, stressing that Nokia, drives products based on this concept for more people to be connected.

Also speaking to ITRealms Online, one of the winners of recent Nokia’s Ovi Software Contest and an undergraduate student of Statistics at the Yaba Collge of Technology, Mr. Eluwole Oluseyi, noted that his participation saw to the development of mobile applications such as the award-winning FowoRanse

Additionally, Oluseyi who supervises several web projects including the new job search portal, Waserise (www.waserise.com, said he embarked on several projects with one purpose; which is changing the way things are done in the country, Africa and beyond, with the objective of bringing technology to the doorstep of every single individual regardless of their positions in life.

“Yes! I use open source codes. I'm a student of open-source community. Most of us also find a better expression through the use of open-source technology and also build on it moving forward. This is simply because there is no code you wish to write which has not been written by someone before now. So, is easier to learn from other projects and technology best practices,” he said.  

He said, for instance, that the stage has already been set for FowoRanse by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) cashlite policy. Emphasising that by the end of the year 2012 he looks forward to a society that will better appreciate the role of the mobile technology in the way transactions are made.

Also before then, he promised that there would be the second version of the application which would be fully integrated into the existing mobile money transfer.

“So, all I can say is that the land is green and the opportunity is boundless,” he declared, just as he applied Creative Common on his software products, which provides a flexible license range of protections and freedoms for authors, artists and educators.

On some of the challenges faced during the development of his products, Oluseyi noted include poor public power supply and high cost of internet access.

“Technical challenge involves finding a common ground to reach out to various mobile devices which has different specifications; screen size and other vital resources and variants,” he said, expressing appreciation to Nokia team and their most resourceful online forums for developer, adding that these provided him and likes with constant help and resources to get over some of these challenges.

“We were forced to go back to the table and sort out some issues which have to do with store specification and implementing best practices. But the joy is that it really worth the stress,” Oluseyi declared.

He believes that every game has rules, therefore the rules dictated the winning formula, and pointed out that most of the tools in use were Software Development Kits (SDKs) which are open-source projects. Even as he is optimistic there is going to be a positive relationship going forward. 

On his thoughts about open source applications, Oluseyi said that it makes the world a better place, just as several wonderful projects, stable applications and great documentation of the best practices could be found in an open-source environment. He insisted that most of the open source applications are really stable and helpful. 

However, on ‘closed source code’, Oluseyi noted that though everyone that goes into a business, do so to make money. Maintaining that a proprietary initiatives and idea still have the right to be protected if so wishes.

“I believe there are several reasons for the closed source codes idea which include but not limited to the business side of the story. Security, competitive ecosystem and other factors also play a role when it comes to close source codes or close source idea,” he said, adding that in as much as he believes in open source code, the close source also has a point going by the business and other inherent reasons.

The fact remains that with this intervention, Nokia and partners are closing digital gap and creating jobs, because as it is, the likes of Oluseyi is not likely going to be looking for work on graduation, rather, he must have groomed his concept into a start-up that would even offer jobs for Nigerians and those who may find favour in their kind of products globally.

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