First Regional Open Source Software Conference ended in Kabul
Afghanistan hosted a four-day Regional Open Source Software Conference - Central Asia (ROSCCA) from 15 to 18 October 2011. The first such initiative in the country and in the region, the Conference was jointly facilitated by the Afghan Ministry of Communication and Information Technologies (MCIT), the National ICT Alliance of Afghanistan (NICTAA), along with Open Source Afghanistan and UNESCO’s Kabul Office.
The former Minister of Finance, Ashraf Ghani Ahmad Zai, praised the organization of ROSCCA and stressed the critical importance of the use of open source software (FOSS) in countries like Afghanistan. “If we consider the cost of one operating license (US$ 200), then Afghanistan needs to spend US$ 3 billion for 15 million users,” he said. “That is a huge cost for the country that suffers from serious economic problems and struggles with poverty.”
Experts on information and communication technologies (ICT) from Afghanistan, India, Iran, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Pakistan, Tajikistan and USA attended the Conference in order to develop a shared understanding of the issue and to form a regional open source alliance. The different panels that took place during the Conference focused on such issues as: Innovative FOSS Technologies, FOSS for Organizations, and FOSS for Socioeconomic Development and Education.
Amirzai Sangin, Minister of Communication and Information Technology of Afghanistan, highlighted the Afghan government’s achievements in the field of communications and information, and stressed the importance of open source software for his country, affected by a long lasting war, in order to ensure cheap access to Internet and IT services. “We have paved the way for wide access to Internet for Afghan population by deploying fibre optic across the country. This objective will be achieved through the use of open source software,” said Mr Sangin.
The Open Source Conference in Kabul was in line with Afghanistan’s outstanding achievements in the field of ICT and communications. According to the MCIT statistics, over 80% of the Afghan population is now covered by telecommunication services; there are more than 17 million GSM users in the country with the population estimated to be around 30 million.
During the four days of the Conference, participants shared their experiences and country reports on the use of open source software and formed a regional open source alliance. They called on policy makers, civil society and media to pay more attention to awareness raising about open source, and to take specific steps in order to facilitate wide use of FOSS technology in the future.
The Conference concluded by an evening event in the historic Babur garden of Kabul, where participants enjoyed Afghan local music and a photo exhibition.