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eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001
While the Internet debacle grabbed headlines at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) conference in Tunis, Tunisia yesterday, it was the digital divide that took centre stage in many of the delegates' opening addresses. The way to bridge the divide, say many of the delegates – including South African President Thabo Mbeki – is through open source software.

President Mbeki told the conference yesterday: “We ... believe that we should move with the necessary speed to implement the agreement to utilise various technologies and licensing models, including those developed under both proprietary schemes and open source and free modalities to expedite access to ICTs and the elimination of the digital divide by fostering collaborative development, inter-operative platforms and free and open source software.”

Hans van Ginkel, rector of the United Nations University, under-secretary-general, United Nations, continued the open source message in his address. Ginkel stressed the need for the conference members to figure out how to create an “information society open to all”. “Hence, this Summit should not be about who has the power to decide what, when and where. How to spread the opportunities associated with the Information Society to the most disadvantaged in the world. How we can use the Information Society to help share the knowledge we need desperately to solve the world’s pressing problems.”

Ginkel cited numerous United Nations University projects leveraging open source to achieve these goals. “It is my view that we really need to build a global community of open source developers. As such, UNU-IIST [United Nations University – International Institute for Software Technology] has begun the Global Desktop Project to help build this community, with the goal of empowering developing countries to become not only competent consumers of the information society but also important producers. Related to this, the UNU Institute for New Technologies and MERIT [Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology] in Maastricht are involved in a project called FLOSSWorld dealing with Free/Libre Open Source Software.”

Ginkel took the opportunity to promote UNEGov.net, a knowledge network for e-Government being developed by the UNU in Macao. “The UNU is investigating the benefits associated with the use of open source software in terms of stimulating innovation and in improving commercial software. Open source does not always mean "free" but it does represent an important opportunity for institutions in the developing world to find cost effective solutions in many areas like e-governance, e-health, online learning and so on.”

Next year November, Tunis will host another ICT gathering – an international conference on software technology designed to promote open source software.

Beyond software, Ginkel canvassed the audience to promote open content and courseware. “The improvements to the existing copyright and intellectual property right regimes associated with this new movement for open educational resources are exciting and worthy of more extensive support. The UNU has been collaborating with MIT OpenCourseWare, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and others to try to raise the profile of open educational resources in the WSIS process. This movement is here to stay and if supported more extensively could bring major benefits for educational institutions, particularly those in the developing world. We are really talking about new forms of knowledge sharing in many fundamentally important fields like health, science, the environment, energy and engineering, to name but a few.”

But he warns: “Realistically, open source software and open educational resources alone will not take us far enough, fast enough. We need infrastructure, affordable technologies and technical skills in the developing world.” The UNU is collaborating with CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research) and the ITU (International Telecommunications Union) to promote an African University Network (AFUNET) to improve connectivity for African tertiary institutions.

“We have a lot of work ahead of us and it is my hope that many more people in Tunis and around the world will rally around the notion of 'An Information Society Open to All'. Perhaps the first step is to open our minds a little,” says Ginkel.

Quelle: Tectonic, 17.11.2005

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