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Interview with Khurram Islam Khan, Project Manager of Open Source Resource Center in Pakistan

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KURRAM"The IT business and industry can be revived by adopting OSS, developing commercial-grade products for foreign markets, disseminating world class OSS education and research positioning Pakistanis as one of the best OSS knowledge workers and product developers worldwide ".

Mr. Khurram Islam Khan, Project Manager, Open Source Resource Center, Pakistan Software Export Board.

 

Date: 15/05/2010. Source: ONSFA

 


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Can you describe briefly the history of your organization?

The Open Source Resource Center (OSRC) is a Ministry of Information Technology project executed by the Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB). The OSRC promotes and supports open source initiatives to Pakistan’s government, NGOs, small and medium enterprises, education and corporate sectors.

What are the objectives and aims of your organization?

Pakistan Software Export Board (PSEB) is a Government agency mandated to promote Pakistan's Information Technology (IT) industry. Established in 2003, the Open Source Resource Center (OSRC) is a PSEB-executed project. It is South Asia's first government-owned initiative. Its objective is to provide expert advice and support to the government, private sector, non-profit organizations and the academia. It raises awareness by presenting open source software as a security-rich and a more economic alternative to expensive proprietary software. Its team of experts helps organizations develop an indigenous pool of open source professionals. It combats piracy by raising awareness about Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) issues at various seminars, workshops and forums, and migrating computer networks from pirated proprietary software to open source.

The OSRC’s main objectives include:
  • Decreasing dependence on proprietary software.
  • Raising public awareness about open source solutions.
  • Effectively addressing issues regarding Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs).
  • Decreasing software deployment costs in the public, private and non-profit sector.

Additional activities include:

  • Basic and advanced level training in major open source applications.
  • Technical and financial assistance to organizations planning to migrate to open source software.
  • Training material for major open source applications.
  • Activities which promote open source in Pakistan.
  • Training workshops in various open source technologies, such as Linux, Apache, PostgreSQL, MySQL, PHP, Java, ERPs, CRM, library systems, open PBX, and CMS, etc.
  • Migrating networks from proprietary to Open Source Software (OSS). The OSRC has migrated 23 organizations, and saved the national exchequer over Rs. 36 million.
  • Working to base Pakistan's e-Government Program on the relatively more cost-effective OSS platform.
  • Acting as a focal-point within the Government of Pakistan by providing technical support for OSS-related technologies.
  • Developing a curriculum on OSS technologies.
  • Highlighting the benefits of open source technology via awareness-raising seminars.

Why are you promoting Open Source?

Pakistan needs to:

  • Reduce software piracy.
  • Reduce licensing costs.
  • Fill the gap between the demand and supply of open source professionals. The OSRC has trained over 8900 participants in various open source technologies from 2003-2009.

What are the benefits of Open Source in the public sector in Pakistan? Can you tell us about ongoing activities in this fields?

The following key benefits of OSS in Pakistan’s public sector are mainly:

  • Reduced reliance on imports.
  • Developing local software capacity and capacity-building.
  • Reduced piracy.
  • Localization.

In addition to PSEB’s OSRC project, PSEB's "Automation of Domestic Industry on Open Source Systems" project is engaged in developing complete ERP solutions to automate the processes and procedures for the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) sector in HR and payroll, finance, inventory, production and sales in those sectors of the economy with the highest export potential. The solutions will be made available to the industry, so that applications can be further enhanced as per the needs of the units.

The Pakistan Computer Bureau (PCB) also executes a project to impart Linux end-user and system administration training to government employees and talented private individuals throughout Pakistan.

The following is a list of open source software-related research and development projects funded by the Ministry of Information and Communication Technology:

¿What are the benefits of Open Source in the private sector in your country? Can you tell us about ongoing activities in this fields?

Companies based in Islamabad, Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, and Peshawar provide various solutions throughout the desktop, server and middleware stacks, including extensive enterprise level technical support related to RAC and cluster computing. Hardware and various operating system, desktop, server and enterprise solutions are available through multinational organizations such as IBM Pakistan, Hewitt Packard’s distributors, Red Hat’s Channel Partners, Novell’s distributors and Ubuntu’s commercial support by Canonical. This creates a healthy ecosystem for the corporate enterprise sector to benefit from total solutions.

The following key benefits of OSS in Pakistan’s private sector include:

  • Security
  • Reliability/Stability
  • Open standards and vendor independence



The OSRC maintains a list of OSS companies working in open source software and technologies in Pakistan, providing software development service, business process outsourcing, content management system, web and communication infrastructure development, ERPs and a variety of OSS-based IT soluctions.The list is available on OSRC’s website at http://www.osrc.org.pk/content/view/280/111/.

On the other hand we have many public and private entities that have migrated from proprietary software to open source software. Entities such as; Ministry of Defence, Askari Commercial Bank, Bank Islami Pakistan, Crescent Group of Industries (Crescent Bahuman), Dancom Online Services Islamabad, Dollar Industries, Ideal Distribution, Inbox Computers, Kohinoor Maple Leaf Group, Siemens Fugitsu and Sui Northern Gas Pipelines. The Pakistan Software Export Board is also on track to fully adopt open source ERPs within the organization.

What are the benefits of Open Source for the citizens in Pakistan? Can you tell us about ongoing activities in this fields?

 

Apart from operating systems and general business applications, OSS has contributed to human and social development through applications that empower individuals, promote economic growth, reduce inequality, support human rights, gender empowerment, microfinance development, employment creation, news-sharing, information and knowledge dissemination.

The key benefit of open source for Pakistan’s citizens is tranferring technology and wealth from developed countries to Pakistan.

The Pakistan Linux Users' Community (PLUC) or LinuxPakistan.net was formed in 1999 at the Sir Syed University of Engineering & Technology (SSUET) by a group of students. Its main purpose was to promote Linux and open source software in Pakistan, and to spread its knowledge among the general public.

Apart from its low-cost and free-of-cost models, its greatest benefit particularly for Pakistan is that OSS can be localized into the eight regional languages spoken in Pakistan. This will provide versions of OSS that use Urdu, Punjabi, Sindhi, Balochi, Pushto, Sariki, Hindko and Darri as an alternative to the widely available software interfaces in English. Similarly, the availability of localized graphical user interfaces or visual display can be further worked upon to develop localized computing, and programming in Urdu as well as typing in domain names in Urdu into browsers to access localized web resources over the Internet.

Do you think open source will increase innovation in Pakistan? Why and how?

 

Many Pakistani students universties doing their degree projects in open source are working on R&D projects which increase innovation and contribution to open source. The Open Source Resource Center plays a key role in educating students and researchers about open source technologies. The strategy is to embrace the innovation opportunities that OSS extends. With the source code for every OSS program in hand, Pakistan can develop extensive and highly-marketable products at virtually no cost for global markets.

Similar business opportunities are available for extending the software freely without any licensing costs while charging for supplementary services built around the product including hardware, networking, consultancy, training, trouble-shooting, debugging, maintenance and upgrades through patches. The IT business and industry can be revived by adopting OSS, developing commercial-grade products for foreign markets, disseminating world class OSS education and research positioning Pakistanis as one of the best OSS knowledge workers and product developers worldwide as well as recreate the interest in IT that was once heard in all corners of the nation.

A recent example is the COMSATS Institute’s own Linux distribution, CIITIX. With special bias towards scientific computing in the domains of engineering (Electronics, Computing, Mathematics), CIITIX comes bundled with educational packages especially geared towards the researchers/students of graduate and postgraduate studies. For more information, please visit http://rnd.ciit.net.pk/ciitix.html.

What is the state of art of open source in Pakistan and what are your predictions of open source in your country?

Open source software has gradually made its way across the shores to Pakistan. It is not only major organizations but also interested individuals that can benefit massively from its arrival. Looking at the opportunities that OSS brings to Pakistan, it is a highly useful and fruitful alternative to pirated proprietary software. It also brings the opportunity for the country to benefit from ground-up or bootstrap innovation, research and business opportunities that are cross-platform and multidisciplinary in nature.

Anything else to add?

Many other open source-related initiatives are currently in the government’s queue for approval.




Más información en: http://www.osrc.org.pk/

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