Friday, 21 March 2008

Idlelo 3 - Press Release

At the End of Idlelo 3, FOSSFA Urges African Governments to Participate more Effectively in the Debate on Open Standards

FOSSFA calls on African governments and Standards bodies to participate more effectively in the global debate on Open Standards by encouraging public involvement in the debate at the national level.

DAKAR, SENEGAL – (March 20, 2008)
The Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) today called on African governments and Standards bodies to participate more effectively in the global debate on Open Standards, especially the Open Office Extended Markup Language (OOXML) standard.

Following a five-day conference in Dakar, Senegal, with a theme, "Making the Knowledge Economy Work for Africa", participants agreed that open standards allow for interoperability (e.g. software packages from various sources can work together), promote innovation and economic growth, and help users avoid being locked-in to proprietary solutions.

FOSSFA encourages African governments to facilitate the debate on Open Standards, and involve national experts in decisions regarding technology standards. The organization also urged African governments to seek a collective African voice prior to taking positions on Open Standards issues. Recalling that the last Ballot Re-count Meeting had very little representation from Africa, and that African countries voted in the affirmative without thorough and more inclusive discussions on the issues, FOSSFA strongly calls for more active public engagement of the issues in the future.

Further, FOSSFA believes that governments should pay particular attention to procurement practices, especially software agreements between it and software companies. In this regard, FOSSFA noted that the practice of binding a sovereign country to agreements based on non-disclosable memorandums of understanding is not open, contravenes the principles and values of transparency in public procurement, and must be stopped.

FOSSFA is closely following the open standards debate in Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Morocco, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zimbabwe which have the right to vote in a decision on OOXML on March 29, 2008. FOSSFA strongly urges those of them that voted "YES" in the past to abstain in the next voting session to allow for greater national and continent-wide debate on the issue.


FOSSFA is the premier African FOSS organization, and was founded under the auspices of the Bamako Bureau of the African Information Society Initiative within the mandate given by African Governments in 1995 to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). The Vision of FOSSFA is to promote the use of FOSS and the FOSS model in African development, and the organization supports the integration of FOSS in national policies. FOSSFA also coordinates, promotes, and adds value to African FOSS initiatives, creativity, industry, expertise, efforts and activities at all levels. FOSSFA partners with development organizations who share these goals towards a participatory and gender-mainstreamed sustainable development and the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in Africa. FOSSFA is governed by a Council elected during Idlelo, from which the Executive is chosen. FOSSFA members may be individuals, organizations, development agencies or government FOSS bureaus. The South African Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ms Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi is a FOSSFA present Patron.


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