The second edition of the Free and Open Source Software Conference (FOSSC Oman) jointly organized by the Communication & Information Research Centre (CIRC) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU), and the Information Technology Authority (ITA), in support of the National Initiative on Free and Open Source Software, commenced at SQU today. The opening ceremony of the two day conference was held under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Abdullah bin Nasser Al Harrasi, Chairman of the Public Authority for Radio and Television (PART).
This event is aimed at promoting awareness on the use and development of free and open source software for professionals, staff, students and the community in Oman. A number of well-known international and local experts are participating in the conference with topics such as sustainability of open source communities, role and opportunities of FOSS in public administrations, open source for the public sector, scaling applications for global communities and others.
In his speech at the conference opening, Prof. Amer bin Ali Al Rawas, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Post Graduate Studies & Research, said: “The Sultan Qaboos University place a great importance for the field of scientific research in various vital sectors, to ensure the advancement of scientific and cultural level and meet the needs of the community. The university is keen to develop the telecommunications and information technology field in terms of research and educational programs and the organization of scientific and applied activities that enhance the reality and effectiveness in teaching and research. In order to carry out its leading role in the field of adoption and dissemination of culture in general, and a free and open source software in general, the University is keen to contribute to the national initiative to support the free and open source software, in cooperation with the ITA.”
Omar Salim Al Shanfari, Deputy ITA CEO for Operations, delivered the ITA’s speech at the conference opening and he stated: “The key objective of the FOSS National Initiative is to support the free and open source software and the deployment of technical awareness of the existence of free software as a technical option to meet the growing needs of individuals and institutions. In terms of capacity building, 1200 people have been trained in FOSS application and more than 70 workshops presented in this field.”
Al Shanfari also talked about the importance of having a genuine partnership between the ITA and the academic institutions, saying: “In order to achieve the objectives of the initiative, the ITA sought to establish a partnership with the academic institutions, through which four Memorandums of Understanding with the Sultan Qaboos University and the University of Nizwa, the Ministry of Education and Middle East College. Through this initiative, we seek to increase awareness and spread the culture of free software between academic staff and students, provide specialized training opportunities for them, and encourage research and development using free software to produce technical solutions that meet the needs of telecommunications and information technology sector in the Sultanate.”
In the opening ceremony, Patrick Sinz, Managing director of Ethiqa SAS, and Board member of the AFUL, gave the first talk on “FOSS as a motor for entrepreneurship and job creation”. Patrick Sinz said that open source solutions enable the creation of innovative and agile IT companies, but over and above this it enables any company to experiment, innovate and accelerate its development while reducing vendor lock-in and motivating internal teams. He elaborated on the issue of “making money with free” for IT centric companies, and how “the freedom of experimenting brought by FOSS solutions” unleashes benefits for all companies, and how to make it sustainable.
After the opening ceremony, the guest of honor opened the FOSS-Oman 2015 exhibition, which showcases the national and international open source solutions and products. The projects which won in the Oman Summer Code competition are also present in the exhibition. The exhibiters include ITA, Omantel, Redhat Company, Al Alawi Institute of Human Resources Development, Engineering Village, Rafed, Nortal, CIRC-SQU, the Free and Open Source Students Society (FO3S) at SQU, and Trans Gulf Information Technology Company.
In the second session, Jan Wildeboer, from Red Hat company, outlined the advantages of the open source way. He said that open is default. “No matter if you call it open source, open innovation, open knowledge, open standards- the open source way is becoming default everywhere. Wildeboer shared his observations from the past to day and beyond to find out how open is needed. This was followed by Elizabeth K. Joseph’s presentation on “building a career in FOSS”. Elizabeth Joseph is a full time FOSS contributor and Linux Systems Administrator with HP working on the OpenStack Infrastructure team. In her address, Elizabeth shed light on career in FOSS, including social and volunteer involvement in projects and user groups and early jobs she had that focused on using FOSS.
In the third session, Hassan Al Lawati, E-industry Development Director at ITA, spoke about the National FOSS Initiative in Oman which is part of the e-Oman strategy. Flavia Marzano, Lecturer at La Sapienza Rome University, gave a talk on the role and opportunities of FOSS ion public administrations. Each session ended with panel discussions. In parallel with the conference, a number of workshops tailored with the needs of the local communities are held. The workshops are led by experts from the industry and the private and government sectors.