How open is the Caribbean to FOSS, Open Data and Open Standards?

Last year, UNESCO commissioned a comprehensive situation review of FOSS, Open Data and Open Standards across 17 countries in the Caribbean. The final report has been made publicly available.

FOSS, OD, OS Study Cover (UNESCO) Today’s technology, especially ICT, has been breaking down traditionally held barriers and norms, and to varying degrees, it has been ushering in an environment of greater access, collaboration and transparency. One of the frontiers where this paradigm is becoming evident is in the adoption of Open Solutions. Open Solutions, which would include Free and Open Source Software (FOSS), Open Data (OD), Open Access (OA), Open Standards (OS) and Open Educational Resources (OER), is widely considered a critical means of narrowing the digital divide to realise universal access to information and knowledge.

UNESCO study

In 2013, the United Nations Education Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), under its Information for All Programme (IFAP), commissioned a study to examine the extent to which FOSS, OD and OS had been adopted across the Caribbean. The study, which was undertaken by Dr. Lora Woodall of Lumine Consulting and I, Michele Marius, of ICT Pulse, covered the following 17 countries: List of countries for FOSS, OD and OS study


To longstanding readers of ICT Pulse, FOSS and OD are not new – we have published a number of articles of those two topics. However, to recap, essentially, FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) generally refers to a class of computer programmes that has been licensed to grant users the right to use, copy, change, and distribute its source code. As discussed in one of our past articles, which also highlights some of the popular FOSS and proprietary applications, FOSS tends to be offered either free of cost, or for a nominal fee, which makes them an attractive alternative to the expensive proprietary products that are on the market. {refer to past articles] OD (Open Data) is the concept by which information is made freely available to the public, and where ‘anyone is free to use, reuse, and redistribute it — subject only, at most, to the requirement to attribute and/or share-alike’ (Source: Open Knowledge Foundation Network). The impetus for much of ICT Pulse’s discuss on this subject has been the Caribbean Open Data Conference, which has been held annually over the past few years. The conference aims not only to increase awareness of OD, but also includes a code sprint, where developers create software applications using OD. OS (Open Standards) is a relatively new concept to most, and does not appear to have a single, definitive meaning. On the one hand, it speaks to availability and accessibility of technical standards for others to review and implement. However, on the other hand, it can also refer to the development and maintenance of standards through a collaborative and consensus-driven process that facilitates interoperability and data exchange (Source: European Commission).

What is the latest on FOSS, OD and OS in the Caribbean?

UNESCO has officially published the final report, Free and Open Source Software, Open Data, and Open Standards in the Caribbean: Situation Review and Recommendations, and has made it publicly available on its website. In addition to discussing FOSS, OD and OS, the report shares the results of an online survey conducted across the region to determine, among other things, persons’ awareness and use of FOSS, OD and OS, and to gain some insight into what might be critical barriers to adoption of those solutions. The report also includes summaries of key findings on the state of FOSS, OD and OS in all of the countries under review. It then concludes with a summary of gaps and challenges, and a comprehensive suite of recommendations that could be considered at the national and regional levels, to increase adoption and use of FOSS, OD and OS in the Caribbean.   Image credit:  UNESCO __________


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