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UNDP/UNESCO FOSS Consultation (24-25 November 2003), UNESCO Paris, France
Background

1) In 2001, UNESCO began to lend its support to the Free Software/Open Source movements, and has recognized that in the software computer science field, they play a key role to extend and disseminate human knowledge. The UNESCO Free Software Portal was developed and published in November 2001. It gives access to local and remote documents that are reference works for the Free and Open Source Software movements, as well as to websites which are hosting the most popular and useful Open Source/Free software packages in UNESCO fields of competence (http://www.unesco.org/webworld/portal_freesoft). During the 2002-2003 biennium, UNESCO has contributed to several Free Open Source Software (FOSS) activities and in particular to the organization of the LACFREE conference, which was held in Cusco, Peru, from 11 to 13 August 2003 (http://www.lacfree.org ).

2) Mr Craig Warren Smith has presented a position paper entitled "Reclaiming UNESCO leadership, recommendations for an ICT-based Path of Transformation" in which he stressed that: 1) "the CI Sector itself should bolster its existing programs in two fields -- open source computing, community-based multimedia"; 2) "Open Source; specifically it should work with the network of organizations and business interests promoting non-proprietary software solutions for developing countries"; and suggested that "the CI Sector should launch a Paris-based event which would serve as a congealing point for a global strategic alliance on behalf of the objectives of open source computing within the developing world". After discussions between him and UNESCO’s CI ADG, the conclusion was to pursue a UNESCO Free Open Source initiative.

3) UNDP has been supporting the use of FOSS in developing countries since 1995 - way before it was known as such. The initial support was provided through the Global Programme “The Sustainable Development Networking Programme” (SDNP, http://www.sdnp.undp.org) which also provided training and support to over 45 developing countries. UNDP also entered into partnership with companies such as Red Hat and Corel to ensure the free distribution of FOSS in those countries. UNDP has recently launched a new global programme that specifically supports FOSS. The programme aims at the establishment and/or strengthening of Regional FOSS centres in five continents. These centres will be working on policy, capacity building, content and applications and enterprise development as well as supporting regional and related national initiatives. UNDP is actively seeking as partners other UN agencies as well as the private sector and NGOs.