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Free and Open Source Software: Policy and Development Implications

Thursday, January 1, 2004


Free and open source software (FOSS) has become an inseparable component of the global technological ecosystem as well as of the current debate on information technology anddevelopment policy. Much of the Internet and a distinguished list of technology businesses use FOSS-based infrastructures for mission-critical tasks. Nevertheless, FOSS is ofteninsufficiently understood from an economic, human capacity and intellectual property perspective, issues with important development implications. Given a greater awareness andbetter understanding of FOSS, Governments may need to adjust their policies, primarily through their e-strategy. The notion that FOSS can have positive externalities makes it animportant consideration in countries with strong development agendas. FOSS has substantial potential for business and commercial use, and for-profit entities may benefitfrom exploring FOSS-based solutions. FOSS has triggered thinking on and consideration of issues relating to content provision and consumption in other areas of human activity suchas education, science and creative endeavours, where its contribution is making available a spectrum of solutions for creative work, research and development and knowledgedistribution, in between the proprietary model and the public domain.

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