The AITEC East Africa ICT Summit, officially opened by Hon. Samuel Poghisio, Minister for Information and Communication, is drafting a first ever map of ways in which Open Source Software (OSS), which is frequently free, can be used to drive regional economic development.
The analysis comes in the wake of an initiative by the Kenya Copyright Board to crack down on companies and individuals using unlicenced software, resulting in a significant shift by regional businesses to OSS and freeware.
Globally, small businesses are beginning to use open source software in far more innovative and adaptive ways, customising code to develop their businesses, according to reports by UK-based Channelweb.
In Kenya, “the increasing shift to customisable open source software is enabling SME’s to get software that caters to their direct business needs, while building a greater need for sensitisation on the endless possibilities the software provides ” said Evans Ikua of ict@innovation, who is presenting at the summit.
The now popular Linux operating system software, readily downloadable for free, is among the software that has in the last year been taken up by SME’s who find the costs of software licences often unreachable.
“Most SME’s are “boot strappers” with limited funding and using simple technology, making open source software the best bet for their businesses to thrive under tough conditions,” said Sean Moroney, Chairman of AITEC.
Globally, open source software has already saved U.S companies billions – over $4.92 billion in 2004 alone according to one study – with 70 per cent of large firms seeing moderate or major benefits from open source.
The demand for open source specialists in the region is also rising and has resulted in the formation of ict@innovation, a programme by Free Open Software Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) and Germany’s GIZ a capacity building programme , which supports small and medium IT-enterprises and aims to encourage the growth of African ICT industries.
The organization has trained 60 trainers across East West and Southern Africa, resulting in over 3000 open source specialists in the region 500 of which are in Kenya.
“The programme encompasses certification, mentorship, networking, such as the AITEC ICT summit, as well as training on open source business models,” said Mr. Ikua.
ict@innovation has also developed a training programme for SME’s offering customization services. Open World Limited, JS engine, DewCIS, Alliance Technologies and LANet consulting in Kenya as well as Linux Solutions in Uganda are some of the companies that have already benefited from the programme.
The AITEC East Africa ICT Summit 2012, themed “Smart cities > Smart societies > Smart enterprises” is a consumer and business event drawing together the many strands of a growth market that is underpinning high-level business-to-business services and consumer engagement through mobile applications and electronics.
The two-day event includes a major Open Source focus where business and academic representatives will map out the work plan to address the growing opportunities in open source software. It also includes an Open Source Pavilion in the Summit expo, where Open Source developers and service providers will be able to demo their products and services.