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Central American Summit on Free Software held in Cayo Print E-mail
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Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00

Emeli Noble, coordinator of the Central American Summit in Belize giving an introductory remarkA Central American Summit on Free Software, the fifth of its kind in Central America, ended on July 14, 2013 at Sacred Heart Junior College in San Ignacio Town. The summit started last Friday and for three days there were discussions on a variety of computer software topics, centered mostly on how to get and use free software and yet remain competitive and productive.


So far this is one of the biggest from the Belize based, Belize Open Source Group (BOS), which brought participants from the United States, Guatemala, Costa Rica and Honduras to share their common interest in remaining open source.
BOS was registered as an organization in Belize just this year but its movement started from 2008.

“We are moving forward to doing more summits, doing more workshops, bringing the people, keep informing people and sharing it; it is not a matter of just learning, it is a matter of exchanging culture between other countries...at the same time we are learning, we are getting motivated to continue with Open Source,” says Enrique Nabet from San Ignacio Town and who is the founder of the BOS movement in Belize.

Representing the Government at the Summit was Dwight Gillett, Policy Coordinator within the Ministry of Energy, Science and Technology and Public Utilities. Gillett told the participants that Open Source is stricken by global giants who now have countries in a technological trap. He said that the technological giants have done much marketing and so too should the Open Source movement.

Gillett told the Guardian that his Ministry is in support of Open Source Technologies and Open Software and for good reasons.

“…It is a way for us to reduce the cost in Government…Government is paying a lot of money currently for applications in the initial outlay as well as in licensing fees as well as support fees that come along with it.”

But the Government cannot fully embrace Open Source at this time and rather take a mixed approach to Software.

“We hope that we would be the early movers in adopting open source technology, we cannot go full UNIX, a whole system has to be built around it; we have to do a hybrid, still using proprietary as well as open source technology.”

Leaders within the Information Technology Sector like Belizean Harry Noble, Sr. who has attended similar Summits in the Americas' believes that the use of Open Source Software can be used as a tool for development in Developing Countries. In a lecture given Sunday, Noble affirmed that Open Software can be studied, modified and even reverse engineered. The full use of proprietary software is unsustainable says Harry Noble, Sr.

Also at lectures on Saturday, the use of Free Open Source Software (FLOSS) was highlighted in the solving of crimes. Crime analysts from the United States were on hand to review the tools available from the Internet that focus on criminals and their behavior. They reviewed 'Spokeo', ’which is a social network aggregator that can track down persons as well as the use of Facebook, My Space and Twitter in investigating criminal behavior. The crime analysts also reviews some cases where the houses of criminals were able to be identified using the power of Google Earth.

As an example of free software, Libre Office (www.libreoffice.org) was reviewed by Carlos Martin from the Ministry of Health in El Salvador. Martin looked closely at the Libre Office components such as ‘Libre Office Writer’, ‘Libre Office Calc’ and ‘Libre Office Impress.’ Carlos Martin reports that from the thousands of Government workers in El Salvador, some US$350.00 is saved per computer in the use of free software, resulting in more money becoming available to buy more computers and conduct training in their use.

Participants at the Central American Summit were trained on how to install the ‘Ubuntu’ Operating System. Ubuntu 12.04, which can be downloaded from the Internet at www.ubuntu.com, was widely made available on CDs’ at the Summit. The popular Ubuntu 12.04 LTS has a guaranteed security and support until April 2017 and can be installed on a Windows machine by simply loading its CD-ROM with a CD containing the software and re-starting it. After the free Ubuntu has been installed on a computer, it opens the viewer to thousands of applications for office and educational uses as well as for graphics, communication and multimedia.

This year’s Central American Free Software Summit in Belize was sponsored by the Belize Bank, Belize Agriculture Health Authority, GS-COM and ICT. Sacred Heart College also willingly opened its doors to the participants to teach them about the new frontier of open and free software.