Open Source Already in Armenia

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The expression Open Source Software has been widely used in the IT-industry recently. Full-scale programs of Open Source, from operation systems and server solutions up to office applications and graphics editors, do not need a payment for legal use, and any specialist can create modified and improved versions of such software.

At the dawn of origination of information science the initial code underwent changes and was transferred from hand to hand until in 60-70s the right to software product property took a prevailing position. In the middle of 80s Richard Stallman left the Artificial Intellect Laboratory of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT AI Lab) and founded Free Software Foundation. He and his like-minded programmers tried to develop a Unix clone fully created on the basis of Free Software. Although many important programs were elaborated, such as GCC (GNU Cross Compiler) and EMACS (the world's greatest editor project), the clone has not been completed. In October of 1991, a student of the IT Faculty Linus Torvalds published a message to Usenet group stating that he introduced Minix kernel on x86 computers. Due to Internet development, issue of Linux and the inaccessible behavior of Microsoft, that had a key role in IT-sphere, a stage of return to the old style of computer interaction started. During the following seven years Open Source Movement was called Free Software Movement as long as Erik Raymond initiated the name Open Source in 1998 and compared the open code and the main right to property of software product with the method of Software development. Such was the origination of Open Source Movement. In Armenia the idea of creation of Open Source project occurred in the autumn of 2002. Correspondent of ARMINFO News Agency Vyacheslav Khachatryan applied to Director of Open Source Armenia Armen Shahverdyan for comments on the project.

- How did the idea of the project's creation occur in the country?

- Approximately a year ago an active group of like-minded-specialists was formed, including representatives from Armenia, Denmark and the USA. Jointly discussing the prospects of development of computer technologies in Armenia, we have arrived to a conclusion that the most prospective at the moment can become development of Open Source programming.

- When did the Open Source Armenia (OSA) project's implementation start?

- In January, 2003, we officially registered a web-site and already in February an implementation of three programs started at the American University of Armenia under management of President of the Union of IT Enterprises Hovhanness Avoyan. In March Eurasia Foundation agreed to continue financing the program. Lycos/Armenia, Enterprise Incubator Foundation, Armenian High-Tech Council of America, International Executive Service Corps and the American University of Armenia also contributed to the project's implementation. These organizations accepted the proposals of participation in the given project with a great enthusiasm, highly appreciating its prospects. After we decided to form a group of programmers interested in cooperation which would work on the projects independently from us. We received many responses of the specialists ready to start working on the project. The work of the programmers being guided with enthusiasm resulted in a creation of dozens of projects on creation and development of various types of Software.

One of the most interesting programs of OSA is the Software localization project Open Office 1.1, the most wide-spread alternative to Microsoft Office, of course, Open Office has less possibilities than its analogues, but it has privileges as well i.e. Open Office 1.1 is officially provided free of charge. In case if Microsoft makes a decision of "pressuring" the piracy market of its production in Armenia, the country will get an alternative way out of this situation by using Open Source products. In the nearest future, after the compilation process, a beta-version of the Open Office in the Armenian language will be issued in the country. By the way, many people even from South Africa apply for advises to the forum of our web-site in connection with the Open Office compilation and our specialists help them with pleasure.

Besides, under the project a new business-model of Application Service Provider is created for Armenia, a system of regulation of relations with clients. As the prices of Software products are rather high, this business-model will allow connecting the server through Internet. A definite software product will be saved on this server. And paying for only monthly leasing of the service, a user will get an opportunity of a "remote" usage of the software product. The given project is headed by our compatriots, highly-qualified specialists from Austria.

One of the most successful projects is "NetBeans" SVG Editor which was elaborated at the American University of Armenia. In the course of the first month this program was downloaded from Internet by thousands of users world wide. While the logotype of Open Source Armenia is placed on the web-site of NetBeans development engineers alongside with such well-known companies as "Sun Microsystems" and "Hewlett-Packard".

Besides, it is necessary to mention one especially successful project "Children's Internet Gateway". Under the given project, teenagers from the town of Spitak studying the operation system Linux under management of specialists from the USA work on creation of a Children's Internet-portal with wide opportunities of the Content Management System, naturally, with open source codes which will allow specialists to modify the program as they thinks best.

- Who are the main "volunteers" in the implementation of OSA projects?

- Specialists having various qualifications participate in OSA projects. Majority of the program's participants are students needing experience, and by working on creation of Open Source software their receive relevant knowledge and length of service. It becomes very urgent for them as there are many companies in the country that admit only employees having length of service. Hence, an exclusive circle is created, the people having no working experience are not admitted to job, and it is unknown where from to get this experience. Besides the students, people wanting to spend their spare time on anything else besides their main jobs work on the project. The most important in OSA program is, in my opinion, communication between interesting people and exchange of experience.

-What consumer circle the OSA-created software is calculated on?

- In my opinion, it is state organization that, first of all, should take interest in OSA production. Sooner or later, state organizations will have to change over to legal software production as, for example, the production of Microsoft often used at these establishments, to speak softly, is not legal. In succession of time Armenia faces a choice of either purchasing standard packages of Microsoft for some $450 or receiving Open Source products, practically, free of charge. Such a situation was in Bulgaria. Then over 90% of organizations of that country were deprived of piratical software, and had to take measures to localize the piratical products, including software as Bulgaria must join the European Union. Taking into account the fact that the country cannot ban the use of illegal programs without providing any alternative, the Bulgarian authorities made a decision to change over to Open Source production as the purchase of expensive licensed products proved to be more than it could afford.

- What stage is the project at?

- At present we are at a stage of full-scale work on nine products. Several of them have been operating for some three-four months already. I would like to mention the high attendance of our web-site. To compare, I would say that our web-site one of the most attended sites among the internet-resources referring the IT-development sphere in Armenia. In the average, OSA's web-site is visited by 4,000 users world wide.

-What are the forthcoming plans of Open Source Armenia?

- We try to contribute to various projects necessarily, in order that in future specialists could work independently. Quite recently we have issued a booklet dedicated to the Project, wherein the programs elaborated under Open Source Armenia are described. The booklet is distributed to the organizations interested world wide.

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