OS can aid SA's job market

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Open source can help move SA from being a consumer nation, to being innovators, says MD of Obsidian, Muggie van Staden.
Open source can help move SA from being a consumer nation, to being innovators, says MD of Obsidian, Muggie van Staden.

The rate of innovation continues to increase and the information age is finally evolving into the information economy because of the standardisation enabled by open source technology.

This is according to Muggie van Staden, MD of open source software solutions company Obsidian, who notes we are seeing dramatic innovations, particularly in the cloud, mobile, and big data sectors - which are run largely on next-generation open source architectures.

In his 2013 Open Source: The Foundation of Tomorrow's Infrastructure research, Al Gillen, program VP, system software at IDC, stated open source technology rarely created new markets in the past, and relied heavily on existing solutions. He noted, however, this is increasingly not the case anymore.

Van Staden concurs, remarking that from the emerging markets perspective, governments should play a more active role in how people can adopt, implement and innovate through technology.

"We often bemoan the lack of employment, yet you have a technology like open source that could open up wide-ranging career avenues and innovation platforms in a country like SA. There's not a bank, a telecoms company, smartphone-maker or airline that doesn't make use of this technology. Every person touches open source on a daily basis, whether they realise it or not. Capital market institutions, for example, are stepping up their adoption of open source software, as cost pressures force an increasingly collaborative approach to IT operations," remarks Van Staden.

"Exchanges and banks have long been using generic open source software such as Linux and Apache to run their infrastructure, but open source tools are rapidly being adopted in the front-office."

Furthermore, open source methodology is used in the airline industry to encourage collaboration regarding next-generation travel applications, according to Van Staden. He adds airlines increasingly use open source software for data centres and as components of business intelligence solutions.

Van Staden notes that part of the challenge is the lack of skills and IT infrastructure capabilities in emerging markets to deal with the influx of new technologies. But this, he believes, can be addressed through starting the technology awareness cycle at school level.

"Open source is one example of how governments can align and educate people on the use of technology. You can give a school kid a piece of free open source technology and let them go home and open it up. Yes, proprietary vendors can give you some free software, but you can hardly dismantle it and see how it works. With open source, the learner can go home and look at the code and understand the libraries and what they do. For pure up-skilling, open source is brilliant."

Van Staden shares that there has to be a mind-set shift that will see SA come from a point of being an innovator, instead of a consumer.

"We will not become an IT powerhouse through everyone only knowing how to 'click-and-drag'; we need to understand software and open source grants us the opportunity to do that at a lower cost, it works faster and is much more flexible," he concludes.

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