How Open Source Can Become an Integral Part of Our Lives in the Arab World?
What's the main issue that stops Open Source adoption in the Arab World? Knowledge, or more exactly, the lack of. Anas Hamdan shares here his commentary about the state of Open Source in the region.
Knowledge is the key challenge that faces Open Source adoption in our community. When people don’t know, they can’t understand and ultimately get frightened, they reject, and when they reject you’ll find out that they are opposing anything new that tries to improve their lives and even hindering its progress, this is -in my point of view- a very vital cornerstone that should be taken into account regarding the adoption of any new technologies.
In addition to the fact that Arab countries lack the necessary knowledge of Open Source concepts and technologies, these countries are under pressure from large companies that work hard to keep the status quo, companies that aim to monopolize the market and prevent competitors from developing alternatives to their products.
These companies are allocating large amounts of money and resources into a powerful strategy, from media which discourage people from accepting alternative software, to lobbying educational institutions through the provision of special promotions and seduction with money.
As a student, I was taught topics like “how to use Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office and Adobe photoshop”, students are raised since childhood to use such programs, only because certain companies have paid enough to those who are responsible of redacting school curricula in order to introduce such topics within schools' study plans.
This issue is unfortunately true for universities, after I went to my university to study Computer Information Systems, no one has ever told me that there is something called Open Source, for some reasons, instructors kept acting like there is nothing ever called Open Source, and when discussing about Open Source software with them, they suggest students to use commercial software as they are more reliable (in their opinion). This always makes me feel that we are victims of a 'crusade' led by proprietary software companies, which just have more resources and they successfully reached their goal.
On the legal side, Arab World does not respect copyright and ownership rights, and people still don't accept the idea of buying software, this raises a big problem: stealing programs and using illegal and unlicensed software with the absence of awareness that there are free and Open Source alternatives, some closed-source firms unexplicitely approve that and allow the use of illegal software, as people who use their software will be forced to buy them one day as they were used to use these products before.
In this way, companies are giving their products almost free-of-charge, just to keep people busy from looking into alternatives and getting aware that other products are actually free, and much better.
The majority still look at Open Source as a mysterious geeky thing, there are not enough translated documents and papers that describes Open Source concepts and principles, and Arab end users should know English to fully understand the documentation of Open Source software.
The key answer of how to integrate Open-Source in the Arabs world society is therefore “awareness”, people should understand their role with Open Source in reducing costs, raising economy, collaborating and participating in the creation of better products.
We need to start collaboration, locally, regionally, and internationally, for the sake of creating IT products that are cost-effective and scalable to our country’s economy, and this is what the Arab world exactly needs.
Open Source leading companies have to enhance their marketing, to find other creative ways to push their products into the markets. Huge companies as well, should help small Arab startups by sharing the knowledge and experience and spreading the word about Open Source.