The recently concluded process of the World Summit on the
Information Society (WSIS) addressed the growing opportunity for
the public sector to leverage the ability of free and open source
software (FOSS) to provide solutions for common information and
communication technology (ICT) problems. In the past two years, a
growing number of municipalities and governments around the world
have begun making public commitments towards the implementation
of open source software solutions in their information technology
infrastructures, especially for e-government, e-learning and
e-health applications. Many opportunities exist for the Arab
region to benefit from this trend, such as reducing costs,
supporting the development of software at a national level,
adapting open source software to the local needs and creating jobs
in the ICT sector. On the other hand, the adoption of FOSS in the
public sector requires strategic planning at the national and
regional levels, building ICT skills and capacities, and the
establishment of partnerships between the private and public
sectors. In order to optimally do so, it is essential to learn
from the experiences in other regions, countries or institutions,
in adopting and utilizing this software modality.
This meeting will help organizations streamline the process of
implementing FOSS solutions, in accordance with the goals of the
WSIS. It will allow experts and decision makers in the region to
exchange the information they need to meet the challenges of
adopting FOSS at the national level, and the good practices for
its deployment at the sector and/or institutional levels.
This meeting will bring experts and policy makers who have
undertaken (or are in the process of undertaking) the
implementation of FOSS solutions, together with regional
stakeholders contemplating such initiatives. The participants
will share experiences in the implementation of open source
software products in their public sector enterprises. Relevant
experiences from developed and developing countries will be
analyzed for transferable lessons learned. The governmental and
higher education sectors will be of particular focus and specific
software solutions and deployment methodologies will be reviewed
for these sectors.
The meeting aims also at promoting bilateral, regional and
international collaborative efforts for the use of FOSS
applications, adoption of open standards, and localization of FOSS
solutions; and it will also explore state-of-the-art specific
software solutions. By the end of the meeting, participants should
provide a common understanding of the benefits and returns on
investment offered by open source software solutions in the Arab
region. Experts would also agree on strategic approaches,
methodologies and modalities to introduce or expand FOSS in the
public sector that are adapted to the needs of the region.
The expert group meeting will mainly cover the following topics:
(a) Challenges for using FOSS at the institutional or national
level in developing countries. Comparisons between the adoption
of FOSS and that of proprietary solutions will be carried out,
while focusing on analyzing and evaluating the differences, to
enable an assessment of the costs and benefits of adopting either
solution. Pre-requisites for adopting FOSS solutions at the
national and institutional levels will be discussed, while
highlighting the various benefits in the short and long terms.
(b) Experiences and success stories related to the adoption of
FOSS by developed and developing countries. Many countries, such
as Brazil, Germany, Bahrain and Tunisia, have experiences in the
use of FOSS at the national level. Other experiences from the
Asia Pacific region are also of great significance for the Arab
countries. Some experiences and success stories will be reviewed
and analyzed during the meeting to conclude the lessons learned
(c) FOSS solutions for government and higher education sectors.
The adoption of FOSS in the government and educational sectors is
of great importance in the Arab region. This is attributed to the
high expenditure of governments in the region for the
introduction and use of ICTs in these sectors. Specific software
solutions and deployment will be addressed for the e-government
and education sectors.
(d) Strategic approaches for the adoption of FOSS. This topic
includes outlining the core processes in adopting FOSS and
focuses on the methodologies and modalities that can be followed
to ensure the effective implementation of FOSS solutions.
(e) Regional needs for the deployment of FOSS solutions
nation-wide and regionally. This segment will focus on the needs
for adopting open standards, localization processes, building
capacity in FOSS, and the importance of regional cooperation for
the Arabization of FOSS.
The major output of the meeting will be the development of
strategic approaches, methodologies and modalities for the
adoption and development of FOSS solutions for the public sector.
It will identify the major challenges facing the deployment of
FOSS solutions and suggest strategic directives to overcome these
obstacles, while identifying the actions needed for facilitating
the use of FOSS in the Arab region..
The meeting is jointly organized by the ICT Division of the
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the
Information and Communication Technology for Development in the
Arab Region (ICTDAR) – a regional programme of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with the United
Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
(UNESCO); and it will be held at the
Nile Hilton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt, during 19-21 December 2006.
The meeting will include a number of presentations and case
studies from selected developed and developing countries.
Contributions from regional and international organizations that
have carried out FOSS projects will enrich the meeting, namely
those from the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP)
and the UNESCO. The final session of the meeting will be dedicated
to recommendations and follow-up mechanisms.
6. Participants & Registration
Target groups for the meeting will mainly include decision-makers
from the public sector, experts from academia and private sector,
non-governmental organizations and groups working in FOSS.
Representatives from ICT related ministries and ICT entrepreneurs
using FOSS are also welcomed to participate in this meeting.
Pre-registration for the meeting can be performed by filling and
returning the registration form by email to
email@example.com, with a cc to
Arabic, English and French are the working languages of the
meeting, and simultaneous translation from Arabic to
English/French and vice-versa will be provided during the meeting
8. Additional Information
The Web page http://www.escwa.org.lb/divisions/ictd/events/19dec06.asp
provides the latest information on the meeting. Submissions,
inquiries and requests for additional information should be
Mr. Mansour Farah
Senior Information Technology Officer and Team leader
ICT Division, ESCWA
Mr. Ziad Haddara
Senior Programme Officer
ICT for Development in the Arab Region (ICTDAR), UNDP
Inquiries regarding logistics, including travel, accommodation,
should be directed to:
Ms. Zahr Bou Ghanem
ICT Division, ESCWA