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Extracted from Malaysia's national newspaper The Star,
10 May 2003


The Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP) is in the process of setting up three centres of excellence for Open Source under its International Open Source Network (IOSN) initiative, which covers 42 developing countries in the region.


Isa Seow, programme specialist of the APDIP/United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), said the first centre aimed at shaping activities around open source technologies and applications, will be established in Malaysia. It will initially be housed at United Nations’ headquarters at Wisma UN in Kuala Lumpur.


"Once we have expanded to cover entire mandate of IOSN, we will look into moving the centre to an external location," Seow told Computimes in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. He said once the centre becomes more established, the plan is also to approach governments in the region to transfer the responsibility of managing the centre so that APDIP can focus more on research and development (R&D) activities. "Asia-Pacific being a vast geographical area requires at least three centres to cover South Asia, South Pacific and the rest of the region," he said. Other countries that have been identified as possible sites for the other two centres are Sri Lanka and Fiji, he added.


Seow said the IOSN initiative started in the first quarter of this year and its focus at the moment is to get activities and programmes in place and gather feedback on needs and requirements of all 42 developing countries. He added that as a first step, there will be a meeting on open source regional consultation to be held in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in August for policy makers and free/open source software advocates. The regional consultation, according to Seow, is aimed at mapping on-going open source programmes and activities in the region, identifying the needs and priorities, and developing a detailed joint action plan for the proposed centres of excellence. Subsequently, a detailed action programme on capacity building in application development, R&D, training and localisation efforts will be developed and implemented, he said. "There is a need to bring together resources from pockets of existing open source activities by individuals and organisations to learn from the experiences of each country."


Seow said APDIP is looking to work with open source communities who believe in sharing of free codes, programmers, governments, and non-governmental organisations and institutions that have ideas and plans for open source. In Malaysia, among the targeted partners are Komputer Nasional, Malaysian National Computer Confederation (MNCC), the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan), the Association of the Computer and Multimedia Industry Malaysia (Pikom), APIIT and IBM Malaysia. Seow said over the next two years, various activities are being planned with details currently being firmed up. Among the initiatives of IOSN are R&D and localisation, especially where software markets are too small for major software vendors in justifying investments in developing local language character sets, capabilities and language representation online. He added that localisation will involve making applications available in several languages common in the region.


Another R&D initiative is providing a total Asia-Pacific open source package whereby pertinent components such as mailbox, word processor, Web browser and other applications will be bundled together to help non-expert users adopt operating systems and support applications.

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