Universities and Free Open Source…. Oportunities for Latin America

Technology is essential within our organizations as it will allow us to provide added value to our services, in addition to positively transforming the competitiveness of our daily work.

Different social sectors and leaders in their countries, mainly those on process of development, have seen in the Free / Free Open Source Software (FLOSS) the opportunity to benefit users of technology with the advantages that this type of technology.

The former Brazilian government leader said:

The State’s dialogue with civil society is decisive. (…) We have to satisfy the hunger for knowledge. Access to technological advances must be the right of all – and not the privilege of few. We have an urgency to promote digital inclusion. The speed of technological changes can make us lose opportunities. ” Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former President of Brazil.

That is why, from Costa Rican universities, through conferences, technical workshops, user meetings, study plans and own technical implementations at the university, we seek to build criteria to promote the acquisition, use and promotion of free and open technologies:

1. Savings are achieved in the maintenance and renewal of technologies: when FLOSS is used, there are savings in the costs of acquiring licenses for end users and in their renewal. Likewise, it is allowed to copy the applications legally in as many equipment as necessary. In addition, greater competition from providers is encouraged in the provision of technological services.

2. Technological independence is favored: By using FLOSS applications, you are not obliged to update when imposed by the manufacturer or supplier. Applications are decided as best suits your organization and deadlines are established according your own commercial and economic situation.

3. FLOSS is built based on international standards: Changes from one solution to another are usually transparent, since they do not depend on manufacturers or suppliers to carry it out.

4. FLOSS is interoperable: The communication and exchange of information between FLOSS applications are usually transparent, since they do not depend on special components by manufacturers or suppliers to carry it out.

5. FLOSS is an easily accessible technology: Applications are generally available online. This facility allows the end user to download and test them at no additional cost, promoting change and adaptation to specific needs.

6. FLOSS is a totally legal technology: It is allowed to copy applications without the need to acquire new licenses. It is also allowed to build or acquire an application that can then be used by all interested parties within the university environment, making the necessary modifications based on specific characteristics.

7. The creation of a more collaborative production model is encouraged: Different companies, professional associations and user groups with common interests, can equip themselves with technologies that improve their productivity, use them without restrictions and build a community that helps to improve them and provide feedback on experiences and success stories continuously. It is possible to diversify the software development and licensing model, it is possible to create collaborative technological projects, reducing costs and efforts, promoting the local software industry and the R+D+i (Research, development and innovation).

It is important to emphasize that our latin american countries have a technological opportunity due to:

Sustainability of the technological model, since by using FLOSS solutions we are allowed to redirect the technological budgets to the areas of research, development and innovation, which allow us to improve and make the technological solutions used more scalable.

The availability of the source code of the applications is enjoyed, allowing auditing the operation of the applications more easily, evaluating the operation previously for the correction of errors, and facilitating reverse engineering tasks for integration with other software applications at the institutional level.

Our universities should further promote FLOSS culture:

• Invest in research to generate greater interactivity between communities, local governments and educational entities to generate academic fabric.

• Analyze the risks of using FLOSS within social settings.

• Establish a formal FLOSS technology training process.

• Identify barriers and facilitators for change.

FLOSS is an opportunity since it allows access of the productive and social sectors to technology that helps economic growth and access to opportunities so that they transform our nations into areas with less inequality. The role of state investment in education, mainly in universities that generate R+D+i, must guarantee technological literacy at the service of all social sectors and that is why new initiatives are born every day that must be properly articulated by these centers of knowledge.