Shuttleworth promotes OSS to masses

By Tracy Burrows, ITWeb contributor.
Johannesburg, 10 May 2004

South African Internet millionaire Mark Shuttleworth and his foundation have teamed up with HP and the CSIR in an R18 million campaign to promote open source software (OSS) to the masses.

The two-year Go Open Source awareness campaign is described as a "world first aimed at putting SA at the forefront of new technology adoption".

"We`d like to ensure that computer users and people who want to become computer literate have heard about and tried OSS for themselves," says Thomas Black, open source program manager at the Shuttleworth Foundation.

"This campaign will put OSS within easy reach of every South African, and help South Africans to understand why early adoption of open source gives them an advantage in the global economy.

"We have had tremendous success with OSS in SA, especially helping schools create computer training laboratories," says Black.

"The open source approach has significant benefits for skills development. When you install OSS on a computer, you get all the tools you need for computer literacy, and also all the tools you need to become a computer specialist. We can teach word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, databases, programming, Internet skills and desktop publishing without paying a cent for software, and our trainees can take that same software home and legally install it on their home computers."

"The Go Open Source campaign targets a significant, but often neglected sector of society: current and potential non-specialist ICT users, who are prone to misinformation and lack of information regarding the available ICT solutions," says Adi Attar, of the CSIR Open Source Centre. "This campaign has the potential to reach out to thousands of people who have never even been in a position to ask 'What is open source?`"

"The acceptance of open source in the government and commercial sectors is not at the level that HP believes it could or should be, and we believe this is purely as a result of the lack of awareness," says Bradley Hopkinson, Personal Systems Group country GM, HP South Africa. "We see this campaign as one vehicle in which HP can increase the acceptance and further promote and develop applications around open source."

Mark Shuttleworth, supporting the campaign in his personal capacity, says: "I believe that open source is the future of the software industry. In just a few years OSS will become the standard for computers around the world. It was open source software that enabled me to build a successful Internet company. Go Open Source is a way for me to bring those benefits to other South African entrepreneurs."