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EIFL-FOSS is a program of EIFL. The purpose of the program is to advocate for the use of free and open source software (FOSS) in libraries in developing and transition countries. It aims to raise awareness and understanding of FOSS options for a variety of library processes, facilitate EIFL member engagement with FOSS development communities, and undertake projects of special significance to EIFL members. Working closely with a network of EIFL-FOSS country co-ordinators, the program will build FOSS capacity in libraries; share experiences and expertise; and develop support material for evaluation of and migration to FOSS library software.
Free and open source software (FOSS) is software that is released under licences that ensure that end users always have the freedom to run the program, for any purpose, the freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to their needs, the freedom to redistribute copies of the program to others, and the freedom to improve the program and release those improvements to the wider community. Today FOSS is at least the equal of proprietary software in many sectors, and in some areas the leader. Typical examples include the Apache web server, on which the vast majority of websites in the world reside, the Mozilla Firefox web browser, and the OpenOffice productivity suite. There are also FOSS tools for libraries available, including FOSS Information Library Systems software such as Koha and Evergreen, and FOSS digital collections software like Greenstone and Dspace.
Yes. Libraries use a wide range of software. They benefit from FOSS that is not specifically for libraries as well as FOSS specifically written for libraries. The former includes such software as the Apache Web Server, the MySQL or PostgreSQL databases, and various content management systems such as Joomla or MediaWiki. The latter includes everything from repository software such as DSpace, ePrints, or Fedora, to integrated library systems (ILS) such as Koha and Evergreen.
Free and open source software is similar in all respects but one to proprietary software. Its difference resides in the licence under which it is made available. And that difference makes a number of things possible which might otherwise not be the case.
For example, FOSS tends to be developed in an open manner in which end users of the software are able to participate. They may participate by answering the questions of other end users. Or they may contribute to the documentation surrounding the software and its use. Or, if they are technically inclined, they may want to directly participate in the ongoing development of the code.
Each of these software development communities has its own rules of engagement and codes of practice. But virtually all are encouraging of new participation from all corners of the globe.
Another difference is that users of FOSS can modify their local copies with changes they would like to see implemented. They can do this because they have access to the source code, and because the FOSS licence under which they received that code permits them to make such modifications as they wish.
Another significant difference is that FOSS software can be passed on to others freely. This is true both for the original FOSS software package that may have been received as well as for modified FOSS software packages. As long as the (often minimal) terms of the FOSS licence are met, users can do what they like with this software. Since FOSS software has this redistribution freedom, it tends to be distributed at minimal or no cost.
And finally, but possibly most important, users of FOSS can learn from the programming genius of others and use that newly acquired knowledge however they like. Access to source code really is access to knowledge.
The "free" in "free software" refers to freedom, not price. "Free software" is the expression used by the Free Software Foundation (FSF) to characterize software released under licences that guarantee the four freedoms of the Free Software Definition:
Open Source Foundations has an approval procedure for new licences to gain the right to use its certification mark. There are more than 50 approved open source licences. "Open source software" is the expression used by the Open Source Foundations to characterize software released under licences that meet the criteria of the Open Source Definition:
1) free redistribution of the program,
2) access to the source code is ensured,
3) permission to modify the software and create derived works distributable under the same licence under which the software was received,
4) integrity of the author's source code,
5) no discrimination against persons or groups,
6) no discrimination against fields of endeavour,
7) distribution of license,
8) licence must not be specific to a product,
9) licence must not restrict other software, and
10) the licence must be technology neutral.
Because there are two recognised groups, the Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Open Source Foundations (OSF), widely acknowledged as authoritative in this field, many prefer to use the broader acronym FOSS, which stands for "Free and Open Source Software". This is the practice that the EIFL-FOSS program is following. It is not intended to disguise the differences between the goals and aspirations of these two groups, merely to facilitate discussion of software released under licences recognized by one or the other. In practice, most well-used FOSS licences are recognised by both the FSF and the OSF. FLOSS, which stands for "Free/Libre Open Source Software", disambiguates between two meanings of "free" in English. Although free software is usually available at minimal or no cost, the free in free software really stands for freedom.
From many places. The Sourceforge website hosts a wide variety of free and open source software. Each tool also usually has its own site, often created and maintained by volunteers who coordinate or moderate further development of the tool. Discussion boards and lists are also common, to enable people who want to modify software to communicate with people who may already have done it, or who may be able to help in some way.
Yes, there are regional communities based around specific tools (such as the South Asia Support System for Greenstone), specific environments or needs (such as the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa and the African Digital Library Support Network) or particular to one region but with a wide interest (such as the Arab Support Centre for Free and Open Source Software, Ma3bar).
The main concern for any software user is the security offered by the software used. FOSS is no more and no less susceptible to security weaknesses than any other. On the one hand, the availability of the source code means it is very easy for hackers to search for vulnerability or weakness, on the other hand the availability of the source code means that any vulnerabilities or weaknesses are more likely to be rapidly spotted and mended by the development community, perhaps before the hackers have found them. A very interesting discussion on this topic can be found here.