2005-08-29

Perception vs Reality

Our FOSS Week has finally been slashdotted. With all due respect to Slashdot editors, was a bit disapointed by the original title "Sri Lanka Declares a FOSS Week" being changed to "Sri Lanka Declares an Open Source Weak"! The spelling mistake resulted in replies such as "Microsoft declares Open Source weak". However, this has been corrected now - after much damage has been done. Most comments implied a perception that Sri Lanka is far behind in terms of technology. I was disappointed to see comments questioning how a "small developing nation declaring an open-source week" becomes newsworthy on Slashdot! Cost is a very good reasons for a developing country to use Free and Open Source Software. But a small country like Sri Lanka, there are other more important motivations: flexibility and independence. It's extremely difficult to convince big software companies to customize their products (e.g.: localization) for Sri Lanka because our market is too small for them. By the way, Sri Lanka is one of the very few developing countries that can boast 90%+ literacy rate (check this and this) which is very high when compared to other developing countries. For the last decade or so, we have steadily been improving the FOSS penetration in the country. With the formation of LSF, we are now becoming a big contributor, too. Apache WS work, and the Sahana Project which started to help manage the Tsunami releif errorts and now becoming a generic disaster management system, are some recent developments in Sri Lanka in terms of contribution. Not to mention independent contributions such as Prozilla or Dr Nandalal's contribution towards OIO. Anyway, those perceptions are not easy nor quick to change. I don't care either; there are more useful activities to spend energy on.

4 comments:

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LG said...

In Sri Lanka, Open Source IS weak

Haha, I got a real kick out of that mistake. You know, in Sri Lanka, open source is an extremely elitist endevour. You can even call it "closed sources". It is limited to a small number of highly educated computer "guru"s like you. It's so weak when compared to MS stuff because it's extremely difficult to learn or you guys have made it difficult.,
I don't understand a single thing that you guys talk about on http://sinhala.linux.lk/index.php, http://www.lug.lk/ or http://www.linux.lk/ At least you need to say it in sinhala/Tamil, or in a comprehensive language. Someone told me that they have developed a sinhala linux thing. So I visited the web site(http://sinhala.linux.lk/). Put yourself in the position of a first time visitor (who's used to MS systems) and try to find some information about it. You can't. Or ...may be... I was extremely dumb to get baffeled by the "advanced" nature of your site. According to me the 1st thing you need to post is an introduction to Sinhala linux(What is linux and what is sinhala linux). Most computer users in Sri Lanka, if not all, have learnt from the "paradigm" of MS. So you need to start from there. This is like Greek. It's like computers for computers' sake. Then what about the people who use computers as an instrument in their day-today life? Do they have to learn and become a full time geeky guru's to take use of opensource?

When it comes to Sri Lankan users, MS is more user-freindly than opensource. It intends to be otherwise I suppose, but I can't help hating LK-LUG because I am unable to understand a single thing of it. One needs extremely high and expensive education of computer science to grasp these things, ...May be I'm too dumb to understand those complicated things. But do you expect people to learn and use it? If so, then you need to take a different approach. Even an average "communication mudalali" in Pitakotuwa knows how to handle MS stuff.

No offense, i'm so happy that I met you here in the middle of an open source swamp! oops ...no offense again! haha. Hope to learn at least a few things from you, as always,...*dissppears in opensource swamp* glp...uh..Btw What is FOSS?

Anuradha said...

Prabhath has commented about this on Nidahas site, and a James Governor also has expressed his views.

Subash Weera said...

Ah..Yea I fully agree with Lohan. Open sources supposed to be "Open", and not "Closed to number of "PhD Freaks".

Sri Lanka can not come up until we get rid of our typical mentality, not just MS. Being skillful is not just enough, should be smart too.

Anyway, good work keep it up, though I do not know what it is. And I hope this may help reduce the gap of year between India and Sri Lanka, by just days atleast.