The issue of FOSS / proprietary in development is a very simple one
to me. The key point is:
A proprietary license requires a individual/ organization to get
permission to use and modify the software.
A FOSS license does not require permission to use and modify the
This is important in ICT for a couple of reasons:
1. Viral diffusion. Proprietary software requires the permission of
the owner. You need to contact them and transact with them to use the
technology, whether money changes hands or not. FOSS allows a person
with a bright idea to simply take the code and run with it. Removing
the permission layer means that technology can disseminate faster and
be used in ways the creators may never have envisioned.
2. Local control. Proprietary code, becuase it requires permission,
automatically brings the creators of the code into the project. FOSS
allows adoption of software by a local group without any connection
to the creators of the software... offering a better opportunity for
entirely locally owned and run projects while still offering
connections to a larger community if so desired.
3. Barriers to entry. Permission often involves payment. FOSS usually
does not require payment. High up front payment is one of the single
largest "barriers to entry" for use of technology. And when you need
to try 5-6 technologies to figure out which ones actually work on the
ground, it is nice to keep that price tag manageable.
There is no religious war here, but I think the staunch defenders of
proprietary code get stuck on analyzing the software... this isn't
the important part. One needs to analyze the innovation and use of
software... that, I believe, is where the real ICT impact lies.
Try CiviCRM at http://www.openngo.org/
Social Source Foundation
david -AT- socialsourcefoundation -DOT- org
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On Oct 17, 2005, at 3:26 PM, Sunil Abraham wrote:
> Dear Richard,
> On Mon, 2005-10-17 at 12:47 +0000, firstname.lastname@example.org
>> 3. The purpose of the briefing at the most basic level is just to
>> disseminate knowledge; to make those involved with decision-
>> making about FOSS and development aware of new data. The
>> intended purpose of the briefing's broader content is to
>> encourage decision-makers (from individual programmers to
>> development organisations to donors etc.) not to get simply
>> carried along on the FOSS wave, but to question their decision
>> and see, in reality, whether FOSS will really achieve what they
> This is not really an either-or situation. A donor or development
> organisation might also choose to use proprietary software/development
> platform [for ex. Microsoft .NET or Macromedia Cold Fusion] to
> develop a
> bespoke FOSS solution. So the issue is not so much production /
> distribution/consumption of FOSS per se but an intellectual
> understanding of the FOSS copyright framework - and how this could be
> applied to other areas of development practise.
> For example, when UNICEF - Hyderabad commissioned the development of
> Sisu Samarakshak - a multilingual, multimedia training module
> related to
> Mother and Child Health. It was developed on a proprietary platform.
> Unfortunately initially the contract stated that the developer would
> retain full rights over the software. So UNICEF was not able to
> scale up
> the programme without paying both the proprietary software vendor and
> the developer repeatedly. Even if UNICEF decided to stick with the
> proprietary platform - they could have used a FOSS license for the
> bespoke code. Thus ensuring vendor independence, community
> and scalability in this development project. Fortunately this issue
> been suitably resolved and UNICEF now owns the code - thought I am not
> sure what the license is. Maybe someone on the list could clarify.
> I believe that awareness of alternative copyright regimes would have
> prevented this from happening in the first place.
> Sunil Abraham, sunil@... http://www.mahiti.org
> 314/1, 7th Cross, Domlur Bangalore - 560 071 Karnataka, INDIA
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