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Alaa's picture


Awareness Generation

Visibility is the key. Misconceptions cannot be handled before there is awareness, so this should be the key area of action.

Stimulate Media Coverage

  1. Lobby the editor responsible for the weekly computer column in Al Ahram to run more Linux coverage. Propose also a weekly review segment on a free open source application.
  2. Facilitate television show interviews/discussions related to FOSS. Shows such as `Sabah ul Khair ya Misr' are assumed to be open to good suggestions so it is a matter of contact. Have proposed interviewees and topics ready; someone from the Arabeyes project to discuss the concepts of free and open? Someone from the EOSBC? Torvalds? It is all a matter of initiative. There are plenty of journalistic talk shows to target.
  3. Supply the highest-circulated arabic computer magazines periodically with fresh copies of Linux, as well as FOSS for the windows platform. This has succeeded before with the magazine named `Online'. This tactic is best accompanied with an article on the ideology of FOSS and possibly some head to head reviews such as Internet Explorer vs. Mozilla.

Get the Government Involved

  1. Obtain permission from the persons responsible for the Suzanne Mubarak Reading for All initiative to use one location to deploy Linux on, train the staff there in using it, and conduct a usability study. Report back to them with the results and findings. Longer term the objective will be to give them the technical ability to conduct further Linux deployments themselves once the pilot shows its success. The report on the pilot will be valuable; it can be used in many ways. It can be circulated amongst MCIT personnel, to businesses, it can be disseminated to the press and the press will run it if it is sold properly to them (i.e. sensationalize the fact that the Reading for All libraries are at the cutting edge of technology, &c.). Favorable coverage of such a report in the foreign press would generate positive administrative karma within the MCIT, giving further momentum to pushing FOSS.
  2. As a longer term initiative, investigate the possibility of lobbying to introduce tax breaks for savings gained by employment of FOSS (and possibly also local proprietary software) to replace the hard currency-drain of proprietary license aquisition. It is not entirely unreasonable to think this may be achieved; tax code amendments tend to be cryptic and might not generate enough attention to alert proprietary software vendors.
  3. As another longer term goal, successful lobbying could perhaps result in pro-open source legislation similar to the Peruvian initiative.

Involve FOSS-friendly Suppliers

  1. Stimulate major Linux suppliers to become active Linux-wise. Start with IBM.
  2. Use the EOSBC initiative as a forum for soliciting opinion and coordinating activity; involve suppliers as well as companies which have implemented FOSS intrastructure. Institutionalize this utilization of the EOSBC to form an industry pro-FOSS lobby. This organ will be useful in stimulating government involvement. It might even be advantageous to involve major FOSS-friendly suppliers who do not have a presence in the Egyptian market; they are likely to be interested in involvement in a group which aims to create FOSS-friendly circumstances in one of the largest markets in the Middle East and Africa.

Leverage Ideological Compatibility of Islam and the GPL

Traditional Islamic views on intellectual property is said to mesh very well with the spirit of the General Public License. In a country which is overwhelmingly Muslim, this angle is begging to be explored.

Since this is a potentially sensitive area, any work here had best be conducted by a respected Islamic legal scholar.

It is a good topic for discussion, certainly; there are several prominent Islamic-themed websites where one can solicit the advice of a sheikh.

Establish Mindshare in the Small to Medium Sized Business

Why small to medium sized businesses? Enterprise-class business in Egypt will tend to be multi-national in which case the decision making will occur predominantly abroad. One of the benefits of reliance on FOSS is lower capital investment requirements, which will be felt more acutely at smaller scales.

One possible approach is to think backwards: use specific FOSS packages to introduce the concepts of FOSS rather than using the concepts of FOSS to stimulate adoption of specific packages. To take an example, promote postfix/exim/qmail as a mail solution and use its adoption to educate about FOSS as opposed to aducating about FOSS such that businesses may use postfix/exim/qmail.

The advantages are:

  1. The business realizes the benefits of FOSS and gains first-hand knowledge of the ideological advantages6.
  2. It is likely to require far fewer resources to promote a specific software solution than to promote a paradigm-shifting ideology to traditionally conservative business.

There is one readily apparent way of implementing this.

Run training programs covering specific packages serving specific needs, such as an `Installing and Administering Linux with Postfix' course. Market this program to businesses. Develop some form of rudimentary certification to cater to people's needs for scraps of paper describing what they can do. Conduct such a program under the aegis of a respected entity such as the EOSBC to establish legitimacy. The resources needed for this are minimal; some organization, an appropriate venue, a few capable instructors, and some effort. The FOSS message will be integrated in the curriculum. There will be a strong enabling focus to such a program; the instructee will be taught how the distributed support model works and will be tested on ability to tap this resource; he/she will additionally be taught that this specific package the program covers is but one of thousands7.

Misconception Correction

Linux Arabic Support is Splendid

The best method of tackling this misconception is probably letting the person try for themselves. This will happen if access to linux is easy and inexpensive (refer to section sub:Improving-Access); curiosity will kill this misconception.

Windows is not Free

The BSA branch in Egypt is not moving quickly enough to stamp out the idea that windows is free. Since piracy is commonly equated with theft, perhaps a religious edict8 would help.

Addressing Businesses

There exist several very professional and freely redistributable propaganda documents on the internet9; these could, at low cost, be reproduced in hard copy and distributed to businesses. This would optimally be carried out by a reputable entity (the EOSBC?) to establish legitimacy.

Concerns regarding liability are likely to be restricted to enterprises (as argued in section sub:The-Liability-Myth), though in the longer term reduced levels of piracy should spark such concerns at the sub-enterprise level.

Improving Availability

Improved availability is perhaps the sine qua non in this document; note three of the five listed misconceptions in section sub:Misconceptions can be educated down with improved access to FOSS. Availability primarily addresses the end-user, and much adoption of Linux in Egypt at the business and government levels depends on end-user adoption.

Infrastructure Building


Just as access to Linux and other FOSS is a key factor, so is access to relevant documentation. There are several high quality and freely redistributable Linux books available. These need to be translated into arabic and disseminated. The translation will require sponsorship; it is not a trivial task.

To take a cue from Microsoft, the time to capture mindshare with the generations of system administrators, IT decision makers, and programmers is when they are learning the tools of their trade: in university.

This prompts a series of proposed actions:

  1. Sponsor periodical Linux CD give-aways10
  2. Sponsor periodical Linux book give-aways, hence the need for a translated version
  3. Lobbying for Linux administration and usage courses. This can happen in several guises, though two are more likely than the rest. The first is having the classes integrated into the official curriculum. This is the difficult approach, though it would be the most beneficial; it forces the IT-specific academic community to acknowledge the prime example of FOSS and institutionalizes its presence. The second option is to have extra-curricular classes (which might very well need to be sponsored) on the campus.
  4. Periodical on-campus LUG-driven events, such as InstallFests.
  5. Supporting the formation of university-specific LUGs such as the Cairo University LUG11. The more the merrier. People are more active and visible when they organize, and this strengthens the distributed support foundations which FOSS relies on. Such support could take the form of providing meeting venues, sponsoring the occasional InstallFest, &c.
  6. To promote the employment of FOSS as academic development platforms, sponsor a prize for the best graduation projects released under GPL and developed on Linux. This idea can be expanded upon almost infitely; best contribution to an existing FOSS project (acclimatizing future programmers to involvement in distributed projects and imprinting the culture of open development in them by participation), &c.

The above-mentioned point regarding printed documentation such as books is also more generally applicable and can be worked in very nicely with the availability suggestion in section ite:Kickstart-an-independent.

Enterprise and Business Support

Where support is concerned, it is probably advisable to let nature take its course. One of the (admittedly quirky) key selling points of FOSS is the distributed support model; one has to already be fairly deep in FOSS culture to experience this, unfortunately.

Eventually, if FOSS takes hold, commercial support businesses should arise in response to demand12.

If the grassroots are properly nurtured and the awareness, access, and infrastructure building issues are handled well, this issue should resolve itself; companies will find themselves internally capable of supporting linux without any specific effort13.


ramez.hanna's picture

i don't agree with this point

i don't agree with this point "Leverage Ideological Compatibility of Islam and the GPL" in general i don't prefer involving religion but this idea may generate some benefit but certainly not for the business level

the best things in life are free --- so as myself

YoussefAssad's picture


Good to have a discussion about this, though.


ezabi's picture

Well not maybe

but sure for me, I tend to promote this based mainly on my religious ideals, do I smell a marketoid in your comment ;) ?

YoussefAssad's picture

I'm Sorry?

Look, ezabi, you'll have to stop mumbling when you talk. I couldn't understand a word.


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