Free and Open Source Software and Technology for Sustainable Development

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Free and open source software (FOSS) technologies transcend geographical and cultural boundaries to usher in a new paradigm where volunteers collaboratively develop software for the commons. The political economy of FOSS technologies has far-reaching implications because of the centrality of information and communications technologies for development (ICT4D). The global trend in the diffusion and adoption of FOSS technologies is a testimony to the socio-economic and technological impact the software has for both developed and developing economies. While FOSS development, education and business potentials may appear as a phenomenon for the developed world, a sizable number of developing countries have undertaken bold measures to bring about innovation, sustainable ICT development and technology independence.




In formulating a global agenda for change and reflection to bring about a fair and sustainable world, the 1987 Brundtland Report broadly defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987). Since then, documents such as the UN Agenda 21 have complemented the key concepts contained in this definition. Chapter 23 of the agenda stressed that one of the fundamental prerequisites for achieving sustainable development is broad public participation in decision-making. There is an urgency to understand and act to ensure that the essential (technological) needs of the world are prioritized and being met – especially those technologies that support public participation and openness. Developing countries continue to make substantial strides in information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D); adopting and using technologies in all sectors of life including education, agriculture, health, government, and infrastructure and social development. This has far-reaching implications for understanding current technology transfer issues as well as the creation, deployment and usage of technologies to boost the ICT (information and communication technologies) infrastructure and bring about sustainable progress in developing countries. More importantly, perhaps, experts and practitioners involved in ICT initiatives in these countries need to rethink the best way to leverage and support their ICT potentials and expertise.


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