Debian-NP at OS Tools and Materials Meeting in Amsterdam

April 16th, 2003

Debian-NP participated in the focused "OS Tools and Materials" mapping project in Amsterdam sponsored by Tactical Tech where we worked to map out existing NGO Projects to better understand who's already out there and what they are they doing. Much of the sessions were informal brainstorming about what existing projects were out there, identifying those project's audience, content, format, goals and aims, phases/future plans. This was then used to create an understanding of the landscape of these projects, additionally resulted in this diagram.

Following the projects mapping we had presentations and discussions of participant's projects which are already running and where they currently stand in their development process. This discussion was designed to identify overlapping and possible collaboration between these and other planned projects (see Appendix: Participant Projects). We also had a discussion about developing training curricula, the challenges, experiences and process involved.

After identifying what is out there and where things are at we focused on identifying what is still needed. We had focused and directed discussion about what the projects we identified cover and what may still be needed for NGOs. There was discussion about a possible further project designed around reviewing software for non-profits.

What is still needed to get NGOs and F/OSS together? We brainstormed different aspects of this question, and came up with a number of interesting results.

In discussing what is still needed there were a number of ideas, among them: meetings for project coordinators; case material; a "thinkpiece" on action research in NP/OSS area; a feedback framework for use of OSS by NGOs (including evaluation and documentation); connecting and coordinating disseminated networks; connecting social elements to the OSS community and vice versa; recognizing and celebrating excellence; a strong developers link to NGOs; a strong understanding of what is necessary to link nonprofits, intermediaries, and developers.

There was also a focused poster session on how non profit projects can be made interesting for software developers.

Then there were first presentations of, followed by several brainstormings about, various specific projects. The projects presented were: FS/OS Software Localization and Recycled/refurbished computers for ICT projects. Best possible preparation, project promotion and distribution/dissemination were the central topics.

Software localization is a great opportunity for non-technical people to get involved in the FS/OSS development. Localization is also one of the biggest benefits Free/Open Source Software development can bring to many different groups of people.

Bulgaria gives a good example: localization has become easy since the Free Software Association has produced a number of guides and dictionaries.

Useful in general would be a guide on how to structure translation projects. It should contain evaluations /a documentation of outcomes such as translation times related to manpower, sorted by translation topics = text natures and difficulties.

Funding is necessary for setting up a first stable initial framework. Sustainability is another important connected issue. Involve resourceful partners, such as The Linux Documentation Project, FSF Europe. One key issue is PR. Suggestion: collect localized Software on a server, accessible to all interested groups.

Identifying which existing business models exist and have proved worthwhile was also an exercise. The Istanbul workshop in February, given by NESST and organised by TTC, will have "Business models for NGOs" as subject. Additionally, the following successful NGO/F/OSS business models were identified:

Appendix: Participant Projects

Micah Anderson presented the Debian NP project, "...an integral Debian project to develop a customized Debian into an operating system that is designed to fulfill the requirements of small non-profit organizations. The goal of Debian-NP is a complete system for all common tasks that non-profit organizations need, using 100% free software. We want to provide this functionality in a integrated and documented stable free desktop environment."

The Linux Curriculum project was represented by Tomas Krag, this project "... aims at developing a framework and/or curriculum for teaching Open Source software implementation for non-profit organisations. The developed framework/curriculum will be used as a guideline for facilitators at a series of planned Open Source events. The goal of these sessions is to enable non-technical computer users and technology implementors to become familiar with the tasks involved in migrating a small office to Open Source software on the desktop as well as the server."

Mark Surman from the Common's Group discussed their project, the "Choosing Open Source Software" guide, "...developed with APC as a part of their Multimedia Toolkit curriculum series. The series includes modules on a number of topics including open source software basics, selecting open source tools, open office, Internet radio production, basic online search skills, etc. It also provides a module format for curriculum development."

The Freeflows project was represented by Eric Goldhagen who spoke about their project to create an "Internet server which advanced, but established open source applications, modified to interact with one another seamlessly, supporting advocacy and knowledge management, both internally and externally. The emphasis of the project lies on the integration/adaptation of existing OSS into a coherent package, not on the development of new functionality."

The LINC project (Low Income Networking and Communication Project) was represented by Dirk Slater who described their OS "Buyers guide", which helps identify the most useful criteria for deciding which OS to use in your organization. Additionally, the "Getting started guide," which is using as a springboard existing case studies, pilot projects.

Interspace Sofia from Bulgaria was represented by Kaladan (Vladimir Petkov) which is a unique combination of several different Open Source projects all in 'one' = combined. http://www.i-space.org.

And finally, the Tactical Technology Collective which aims to foster social technology in developing and transition countries with the help of a number of "Source" events. Among these events: Africa Source in Namibia, a FS/OSS developers workshop, a small FS/OSS meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil in June and a Tech Activists Camp - location still to be decided.