Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development is recommending the use of free and open source solutions to small and medium sized enterprises in development countries. This type of software opens up business opportunities for IT entrepreneurs and offers long-term resources for local ICT processes and innovations, the ministry writes in a strategy paper published earlier this month.
ICT solutions and services are a 'growing component of sustainable development', the ministry explains. "Local experts play a key role in operating, upgrading and troubleshooting complex ICT applications to safeguard their long-term sustainability. Free and open source software is available to users without paying licence fees and grants them the right to use, change, localise and improve the software."
Aiming to increase the use of open source, the ministry is funding courses targeting ICT entrepreneurs, focussed on programming, business development and networking. The training material is made freely available.
In its strategy paper, the ministry points to the activities and network of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, assisted by the government-owned development company Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit. Their joint ICT innovation programme started in 2008 and is active in 15 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.
The project aims to increase the capacity of African SMEs, based on free and open source software. Fossfa organises trainings and teacher certification. It is also a network of over 1200 African open source specialists and organisations. The two have trained over 200 teachers and "have reached out to over 600 IT-entrepreneurs, students and industry leaders".
"Two community-built training manuals, on African FOSS Business Models and Linux System Administration, have been integrated in a number of curricula of African IT faculties, business schools and training institutes. The 600 pages of free high-quality learning material in English and French enjoys high demand with learners all over the continent, with at least 13.600 copies in use as of today."