UNESCO launches free open sources software center in the Arab World
A memorandum of understandig has been signed among UNESCO , UNDP/ICTIDAR and Balamand University in Lebanon to establish a free open source software(FOSS) center for the Arab States located at the Balamand Univeristy Lebanon.
This project fall under the framework of UNESCO's Communicatino and Informations program of free access of information to all.
The UNESCO Free Software Portal gives access to documents and websites which are references for the Free Software/Open Source Technology movement. It is also a gateway to resources related to Free Software.
With the Free Open Source Software Portal, UNESCO provides a single interactive access point to pertinent information for users who wish to acquire an understanding of the Free Software movement, to learn why it is important and to apply the concept. Visitors to the UNESCO Free Software Portal can browse through pre-established categories or search for specific words. They can add a new link or modify an already existing link.
This project, with UNDP-ICTDAR, UNESCO and the University of Balamand as the main partners, provides mechanisms for capacity building, through academic and application development of free/open source software (FOSS) as well as awareness raising through organizing workshops focusing on government, academia and business leaders. Moreover, an Arab Regional FOSS center will be created to act as a catalyst for this project linking various partners and initiatives together.
The University of Balamand proposes to participate actively by supporting and hosting the Arab FOSS Center. This effort is to be conducted in cooperation with a wider possible set of partners comprising of other leading academic institutions throughout the Arab region. The University of Balamand has been developing and co-developing free open source software for the past years. We cite for example, BECARS, a tool for implementing Gaussian Mixture Models for speaker recognition (http://tsi.enst.fr/becars). The University strongly believes in capacity building through FOSS. Language and culture dependency is crucial in knowledge diffusion and this also has a role in FOSS. Therefore, the University of Balamand proposes to be host and be an active part member of the Arab regional FOSS center.
The objectives of the Center are three-fold:
- Build capacity at the grass root level by encouraging the inclusion of FOSS courses as part of the standard course offerings in universities as well as networking the various FOSS communities that exist in the Arab Region;
- Support the creation of applications (or toolkits) that will meet the needs of the local market and lead to the strengthening of local and regional expertise.
- Raise awareness at the government and business levels on the potential and viability of open source solutions and applications as solid alternatives to proprietary software.
The target groups for the Center are:
- Research Centers
- Governmental Institutions
- Arab FOSS communities and interested agencies
An indirect target of this project is the Private Sectors. It is important to explain the value of importance of free open source software to the regional private sector and national business associations and chambers of commerce in order to gain their support and interest in adopting locally developed solutions and to seek support for this project.