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UN trade body says governments should seize open source opportunities

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Governments should encourage the use of free and open source software, recommends Unctad in a report published on 28 November. The United Nation's trade and investment body says that an increasing uptake of open source will help to develop an innovative domestic software market. It also makes public organisations less dependent on large-scale software manufacturers.

"If they want to capitalise on the opportunity of open source, governments and enterprises will need to acquire know-how on its technology and business models", the UN body writes.

The intergovernmental organisation on trade, investment and development last month published the seventh edition of its annual "Information Economy Report". One of the six chapters focuses on the growing importance of free and open source software. This type of software provides new business opportunities and empowers communities to be less technologically dependent, Unctad says.

"Recent technological trends, especially with regard to cloud computing, mobile applications and big data, are set to further accentuate the reliance on free and open source. Governments and their development partners should therefore give adequate attention to this area when designing and implementing strategies aimed at fostering software capabilities and their national software systems."

Creativity and innovation
The UN body recommends to develop open source capabilities in connection to software used by the public sector. Advantages include the sharing of knowledge, conducive to the promotion of learning within and across borders. It sees as a "key value" that this type of software promotes grass roots creativity, innovation, leadership and teamwork.

Unctad writes: "Various studies of free and open source communities have demonstrated that the process of learning about and adapting software enables users to become creators of knowledge, rather than merely passive consumers of proprietary technologies."

The report also provides insight in the open source policies developed in Malaysia, South Korea, Laos and the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa, an international UN task force promoting the use of open source in Africa.

More information:
The Information Economy Report 2012 (pdf)