Issue #: 
April 9, 2007

This issue of the Drum Beat is the second in a 2-part series focused on knowledge. In the first issue, we presented just a few of the experiences, strategies, and resources included on our site that highlight diverse uses of communication tools and approaches to preserve, protect, share, manage, and promote traditional, indigenous, and tacit knowledge. To access this issue, please click here.

In this second issue, we take a closer look at how communication has played a role in shaping the way in which all types of knowledge (not only those that are "local") are being "opened", even in the context of efforts to own, commodify, and/or profit from content. Below, we highlight some experiences with, reflections on, and resources concerned with this complex and challenging issue of whether and how to work toward enabling broader access to various kinds of knowledge, such as that related to technology, media processes, and education/research.



1. Giving away Secrets: Can Open Source Convert the Software World?

Offered by Panos, this toolkit focuses on the role of free and open source software (FOSS) in fostering social and economic development around the world. It is motivated by the observation that, for many people in developing countries, commercial software packages are not an option because they are too expensive, are not available in local languages, and/or cannot be shared. FOSS advocates argue that the tools of information and communication should be in the public domain so that knowledge sharing can increasingly be generated; commercial software companies explain that they spend huge amounts of money on research and development (R&D) of software, and need to restrict usage in order to recoup their investments. This media briefing asks if these tensions can be reconciled, and attempts to guide journalists in navigating these questions - and the larger debate.

2. Open Access and Creative Common Sense

In this interview article, Larry Lessig discusses 'Creative Commons' - a non-profit corporation he founded in 2001. The idea is to promote the use of copyright to encourage the creative re-use of intellectual works, rather than to prevent it. Lessig feels that current "intellectual property and copyright laws...have become too restrictive for the Internet era and are now stifling creativity and innovation." His organisation provides a free set of copyright licenses which explicitly allow re-use while protecting certain rights. In the case of Lessig's own book, "Free Culture", the license specified that derivative works can be made and distributed, as long as they are for non-commercial purposes and the source is attributed. Within days of the launch, derivative works and copies had sprung up all over the internet. "It has produced an extraordinary number of remixes of the book in different forms and formats. There is even an audio MP3 version," says Lessig. "People have made a lot of changes that were enabled because of the freedom attached to the license."

3. Good News from India: Open Access Journals Work!

by Frederick Noronha

Open access (OA) refers to the free online availability of digital content, a model best known for peer-reviewed scientific and scholarly journal articles, because scholars publish without expectation of payment. As detailed in this article, a young physician has launched a Mumbai, India-based open publishing firm called Medknow Publications Private Limited; as of late 2006, the company had published 33 academic (mostly medical) journals, put them online, and made them accessible to all - without a fee. According to the Medknow website, the firm "has successfully put in place an original electronic manuscript submission and peer review system for the first time in India." Noronha suggests that the Medknow experience "flies in the face of the traditional wisdom - that if you share your knowledge, you won't be able to earn from it. MedKnow shares its information promiscuously, and not just survives, but thrives."

4. The Chaos in the Bazaar: The CCC Kicks Off

by Frédéric Dubois

Writing from Berlin, Germany in late December 2006, the author describes the Chaos Communications Congress (CCC), an annual event that draws several hundred Central and Eastern Europeans (as well as some North Americans) who work on "copyleft intellectual property rights, on counter-surveillance tactics and on hands-on hardware development." This event is hosted by the Chaos Computer Club, whose 2000 or so members seek to "get wise about the tools and technology, but also understand technology in a wider context, such as how it's used by the state, by corporations and how citizen networks bypass or undercut the commercial and official strategies altogether, in using creative tactics."

5. Open Source Software: Perspectives for Development

by Paul Dravis

An excerpt from this report from the infoDev Symposium, held in conjunction with the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS): "The emphasis on openness in open source software [OSS] has fostered the growth of a world-wide community of developers contributing to the evolution and improvement of various software programmes for use in networked servers and desktop systems ranging from operating systems and web servers, to e-mail, word processing and spreadsheets. While such a diffused structure for software development may seem chaotic, this approach is being considered as a more democratic alternative to monolithic single vendor efforts....With OSS, the programming code used to create software solutions is available for inspection, modification, re-use and distribution by others....The concept of free, in this context, emphasizes what can be done with the source code rather than its cost. Because of its collaborative nature, the open source model lends itself to allow participants to be both producers and consumers/users of the software."

6. Fundamental Issues with Open Source Software Development

by Michelle Levesque

"Despite the growing success of the Open Source movement, most of the general public continues to feel that Open Source software is inaccessible to them." This paper discusses 5 fundamental problems with the current OSS development trend, explores why these issues are holding the movement back, and offers solutions that might help overcome these problems.

7. FLOSS in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Social Movement for Freedom of Knowledge

by Lena Zúñiga

This editorial characterises free/libre and open source software (FLOSS) as a social movement (not just a technological phenomenon) in the Latin America and Caribbean (LAC) region, and traces its growth. The author identifies several themes that emerge in the development of this field: 1) The collective production of commons - individuals and organisations collaborate to use and produce software through processes that involve the development of a series of rules for participation, community identity, content dissemination, and the like. 2) The gender roles in these collaborative processes - degrees and types of participation by men and women in the movement are shaped by the prevailing gender roles in the region. 3) The development and articulation of common positions, or "stands", regarding controversial social and political topics related to FLOSS such as the regulation of intellectual property (IP) and governmental policies related to democratising access to new technologies. Furthermore, some members of this movement in the LAC region "are working to move forward and to better understand the use of open contents in areas such as education, the arts and science."

8. Open Source Democracy: How Online Communication is Changing Offline Politics

by Douglas Rushkoff

"In the software industry, the open source movement emphasises collective cooperation over private ownership....Open source enthusiasts have found a more efficient way of working by pooling their knowledge to encourage innovation....What, asks Douglas Rushkoff in this original essay for Demos, would happen if the 'source code' of our democratic systems was opened up to the people they are meant to serve? 'An open source model for participatory, bottom-up and emergent policy will force us to confront the issues of our time,' he answers. Rushkoff challenges us all to participate in the redesign of political institutions in a way which enables new solutions to social problems to emerge as the result of millions [of] interactions. In this way, online communication may indeed be able to change offline politics."

See Also:

9. IBM Pledges 500 U.S. Patents To Open Source In Support Of Innovation And Open Standards


10. Local Projects Database (LPD) - Global

In response to the December 2004 tsunami disaster, the Development Gateway launched an OSS tool for international relief and development coordination. Developed with the Romania Development Gateway and World Resources Institute, the LPD is a tool for consolidating project, organisation, and contact data to share among development organisations at work in a particular country or region, enabling communications among these organisations through a web interface. In the context of a natural disaster, for instance, LPD is designed to support the exchange of information among organisations from around the world trying to coordinate efforts to save lives and help victims rebuild their future. More broadly, LPD is meant to be a tool for creating and sustaining collaborative online communities. The LPD is being piloted by regional and local development portals in Colombia, Mongolia, Morocco, Poland, and Romania.

Contact Teal Davidson

11. InfoShare - Sri Lanka

This non-profit technical support organisation provides web media services and application development for various stakeholders in the peace process, to the end of engendering a culture of open information sharing. This culture would, it is hoped, support an approach to conflict transformation that is holistic, inclusive, and participatory. For example, InfoShare has designed and developed a multilingual citizen journalism website called Groundviews. In providing a space for concerned citizens to air their aspirations for conflict transformation, democracy, good governance, and peace in Sri Lanka, this website hopes to promote and strengthen voices that are not featured in mainstream media. No special training is required to enter posts to the websites, even in the vernacular. InfoShare's multilingual Peace Library is an online index of conflict transformation and peacebuilding information focused on Sri Lanka; the Library uses the open source web application framework Ruby on Rails.

Contact Sanjana Hattotuwa

12. Echo Chamber Project - United States

This is an experiment of open-source, investigative journalism focusing on coverage by the television news media in the United States leading up to the Iraq war. The aim is to create new ways of making media by combining the internet and filmmaking communications mediums to form a new journalistic paradigm. By using collaborative editing and production techniques for producing this film, the project aims to explore ways to incorporate a broader range of voices and perspectives into the mainstream media. The interactive project website aims to help combine the principles of documentary filmmaking without narration, investigative reporting, open source content development, and the integration of fact-based objective reporting with partisan and non-partisan intersubjective perspectives. Individuals are invited to review over 50 hours of information and knowledge collected so far, and to help with editing sound bite sequences - as well as to share what the material means to them.

Contact Kent Bye

13. Ourmedia - Global

Ourmedia is an online open-source community space, built and staffed by volunteers, that freely hosts grassroots video, audio, music, photos, text and public domain works. The goal of the project is to expose, advance, and preserve digital creativity at the grassroots level. The site aims to be a central gathering spot where people share works, offer tips and tutorials, and interact in a community space and virtual library that will preserve works for future generations. Open to amateurs, hobbyists, professionals and anyone using digital media, Ourmedia aims to be a global community and learning centre where individuals can gain visibility for works of personal media. It seeks to do this by offering free, permanent hosting to video blogs, photo albums, home movies, podcasting, digital art, documentary journalism, home-brew political ads, music videos, audio interviews, digital storytelling, children's tales, Flash animations, student films, and all kinds of digital works.

Contact Our Media.

14. Online Journalism Review (OJR): Journalism Wikis - United States

OJR has created a series of wikis on journalism skills, designed for bloggers, grassroots reporters and others who write online but who haven't formally studied journalism. (A wiki is an article, like an encyclopedia entry, but that any reader can add to or edit.) OJR requests that professional journalists help to build the resource by adding edits, as experienced journalists can help other bloggers and web publishers make the internet a more accurate and informative medium for all readers. According to the project website, the wiki feature represents an experiment for OJR, and aims to possibly serve as a model for the online publishing industry. The editors will report on participation and progress, either on the website or at industry conferences. OJR is also presenting these articles under a Creative Commons license.

Contact Robert Niles

See Also:

15. Youth Media Exchange (YME) - Global


Pulse Poll

Do you agree or disagree?

All health interventions should have a proven primary nutritional/food component.

[For context, please see The Drum Beat #388.]


To read contributions to a discussion of the above issue - click here.



16. Virtual University for Small States of the Commonwealth (VUSSC) - Caribbean, East & Southern Africa, Latin America, South Asia, South Pacific, West Africa, Western Europe

Established in 2006 through a collaboration between education ministers of the Commonwealth Heads of Government and the Commonwealth of Learning (COL), VUSSC is an effort to foster a collaborative network for educators in small states in various regions around the world. VUSSC draws centrally on information and communication technologies (ICTs) to bring together "learning content developers" who are committed to the collaborative development and sharing of free content resources for education.


17. Open Source Electronic Publishing System - Global

Cornell University Library (New York, USA), in partnership with Penn State University Libraries and Press, has released an open source electronic publishing system that is designed to provide authors and publishers with a more affordable way to publish scholarly research on the internet. The system, called Digital Publishing System (DPubS), supports the publication of journals, monographs, and conference proceedings, and it can be configured to accept other evolving forms of scholarly communications. Both open access and subscription-based access models are supported. By making this software available to libraries, university presses, and other independent publishers, Cornell hopes to expand opportunities for creative communication among scholars around the world.

Contact David Ruddy

18. Global Health Network (GHNet) Supercourse - Global

Supercourse involves a network of over 38,000 faculty members in 151 countries who have created - and are sharing - a free online library of approximately 2,800 PowerPoint lectures on public health and prevention. To ensure as broad access to the lectures as possible, the network has established 45 Supercourse mirrored servers in medical, dental, veterinary, nursing, and public health schools around the world, as well as distributed 20,000 Supercourse CDs (free of charge). For the benefit of those who do not have easy access to scientific information (beyond lecture material), online textbooks have been provided. Organisers are also in the process of creating "legacy lectures"; the goal is to archive them in 170 national libraries around the world.

Contact Ronald E. LaPorte OR Akira Sekikawa OR Deborah J. Aaron

19. Advocacy for Access to Knowledge: Copyrights and Libraries - Global

This project is based on the belief that libraries have a fundamental role to play in the development of democratic societies, by enabling all members of the community to access global knowledge resources, ideas and opinions. Advocacy for Access to Knowledge involves the creation of networks of library consortia to raise awareness about - as well as to build capacity, expertise, and resources in - current copyright issues, and to identify how these issues intersect with ICTs. The project has created a handbook that explores: updating of national copyright laws, technological protection measures, the public domain and the term of protection, orphaned works, the database right, public lending right, trade agreements, the relationship between copyright law and contract law, open access publishing, Creative Commons licensing, and international copyright developments. The handbook also outlines policy issues relevant to libraries and includes guidance on advocacy for non-specialist librarians.


20. Hai Ti! (Listen Up!) - Namibia

This initiative uses illustrated comic strips in an effort to make ICTs less intimidating to new users. Hai Ti! is a character-based drama which is based around the experiences of the SchoolNet team and teachers at a remote rural school in Namibia. The project aims to provide teachers and learners with skills - in an entertaining and easy-to-understand manner. One key approach involves reaching out to educators who are still resistant to ICTs. Hai Ti! also aims to address misunderstanding and allay fears among educators about the compatibility of OSS such as Open Office with similar proprietary systems.


21. Free/Open Source Software: Education

by Tan Wooi Tong

This primer describes some of the advantages of FOSS, including: offering lower costs; providing an opportunity for students to learn about programming by examining and modifying the source code; and offering more reliability than proprietary software. It explores the role that FOSS can play in schools, colleges and universities. It is one of a series and has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution License which allows other organisations to copy and distribute this information.

22. Applying Open Source Software in a Development Context: Expectations and Experiences - Case Study of a University in Uganda

by Victor van Reijswoud and Emmanuel Mulo

This article discusses the experiences of the Uganda Martyrs University in migrating its ICT infrastructure to FOSS; among the findings were that a continuous flow of information to the users is needed and that a "top-down" was insufficient. The choice to migrate the students prior to the staff was found to have been disadvantageous. The expectation that the staff would support new software and request for installation of FOSS on their machines turned out to be a miscalculation. The authors stress the need for FOSS-related educational material (what is currently available is mostly very technical and not understandable by general users). The need for appropriate support in implementing FOSS is also high; international organisations might consider setting up a support centre that deals with the questions of the system administrators and users in developing countries.

See Also:

23. PLoS Biology Journal - Global


24. - Global

This international student movement seeks to be an active voice in advocating open access to scientific literature, as well as artistic and cultural expressions, online. The project website features advocacy ideas such as: printing out a free culture flyer from the website and posting it in a public, visible (legal) place; sending an email to one's congressional representative to let them know that copyright issues matter; encouraging media literacy by contacting reporters to encourage inclusion of a free culture perspective; and starting a free culture chapter at one's school or within one's community (a 5-point guide to starting such a club is provided). ICTs are meant to be a launching point for local action in support of freedom of information. For instance, campus chapters rallied for access to publicly funded research as part of's "National Day of Action" on February 15 2007.


25. Choosing Open Source: A Decision Making Guide for Civil Society Organizations

by Mark Surman and Jason Diceman

This online document discusses the benefits of OSS for civil society and non-profit organisations. It provides an introduction to the topic, tackling questions like 'what is open source?' and 'how will it benefit my organisation?' It also includes practical advice on how to review OSS packages and select the right ones for the job at hand.

26. Connecting Communities - The International Open Source Network: A Case Study

by Helena Loh

Operating in Thailand, the International Open Source Network (IOSN) strives to be a centre of excellence for FOSS, open standards and open content; it supports strategic and effective ICT usage for social and economic development in Asia-Pacific. The IOSN functions primarily through its web portal and via a network of governmental and non-governmental organisations, individuals, and FOSS-related advocacy groups. In addition to strengthening FOSS capacity, IOSN produces toolkits and related resource material for FOSS information sharing, programmes and initiatives. As of December 2006, IOSN was in the process of improving their project site to accommodate the inclusion of 3 regional nodes for South Asia, ASEAN-3 and Pacific Island nations.

Contact OR OR OR

See Also:

27. Go Open Source Campaign - South Africa


This issue was written by Kier Olsen DeVries.


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