Future answer to copy-rights violation in Cambodia

After spending four days in October in Ho Chi Minh City attending a workshop called Foss Asia 2010, I reached the conclusion that open source software could be the answer to copyright issues on software or computer technology in developing countries such as Cambodia and Vietnam, where many poor people were under-paid and pirated copies of software were widely available.
This second Foss event after the first one in Vietnam last year featured open source advocates and open source software developers from all around the world and big names such as Google, open-source web-browser Mozilla, and many more.
Growing up with a lot of bootleg software programmes easily available in Cambodia, I had become used to these commercial software applications. As a consequence, this practice has deterred technology companies like Microsoft from fully operating here, which means no jobs or prospects for more development.
The other thing to consider is that the more that pirated software becomes available here, the more it increases anarchy and neglect of copyright laws – why use costly commercial software when we cannot afford it?
But what about open source software? And in what way can it help a country like Cambodia avoid using pirated programmes? Open source software is only a fraction of what’s known as “open source”, which some people call a philosophy and others “pragmatic methodology”, according to wikipedia, an online open-source encyclopedia.

Foss girls 🙂 by Preetam Rai

Besides computer technology and culture, open source extends its influence to areas such as education, health and science and journalism, along with arts, digital content and more. As a way of illustration, open source software, which is different from the commercial software one has to pay for, was built on the concept of making everything free for all the people.
The source code of open source software is “published and made available to the public, enabling anyone to copy, modify and redistribute the source code without paying royalties or fees”, wikipedia states.
Open source code evolves through community cooperation in a collaborative manner in which software developers from all over the world come together online and develop a code to make any programme better.
These communities are also comprised of very large companies which believe in free access to free software for everyone. Where does the idea come from? In fact, open source existed even before computers when it was called the spirits of sharing.
Lita, LIFT's colleague, and me

At Foss Asia 2010, I learned that open source software technology has been taken to a new level in Vietnam, where many people have turned to open source programmes for use rather than the commercial software that many cannot afford.
In the late 1990s, the Vietnamese government strongly supported free open source software integrated in education as well as business, prompting an order from the government for all administrative offices to use open source applications in 2008. With more support from the national government and relevant OSS organisations, Vietnam has a strong open source community which enables the country’s consumers to save more and contribute less to copyright violations.
In an effort to bring development through technology to Cambodia, the Open Institute, which was established in 2006, is committed to improving access to quality education by using technology in the local language. Open source software has changed the face of education and business around the world.
It is still a struggle for Cambodia, however. According to Norbert Klein, a German author of the Cambodian Mirror blog and a strong supporter for internet development in Cambodia, the government in 2001 announced a policy aimed at “avoiding dependency on proprietary systems, instead promoting open systems and interoperability”, which was supported by the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Education to use free open source software such as OpenOffice, Khmer Unicode and other FOSS applications.
However, there is a lack of support for those who want to shift  from commercial applications and a lack of facilities and training in schools around the country.
It is perhaps still a dream to see Cambodia fully integrate FOSS into education as much as Vietnam has, but FOSS will be the answer to more development in Cambodia in the information and communication technology sector. What is needed now is support and more programmes to lift awareness about the free use of open source software and at the same time reduce the use of pirated software.

4 thoughts on “Future answer to copy-rights violation in Cambodia”

  1. Yeah! it’s the reason why open source is initiated. Piracy in cambodia is still an issue, but to look at it positively, with piracy, poor country like us can also catch up with what’s going on in the world. If you look several years back to when you were at high school, there weren’t many open source programs back then and we relied on this piracy to get the knowledge. Another issue is that it’s difficult to introduce this open source to the whole cambododia, esp the old generation. They are not familiar with this technology and many people in the ministries are still using the pirated software, i think. However, many private company have been adopting that.. so.. yeah! it’s nice!

  2. Thanks, Davuth. I understand that FOSS has its own limit, and I’m also wondering what can be done to break the limit or barriers of FOSS. I am a fan of pirated software as well, but I know that this isn’t a sustainable way for our society and economy to improve. We can’t either right away produce and sell software. Our capacity is limited as well, so it’s best to use software that’s free to use, rather than software that’s for a commercial purpose and that’s sth we can’t afford to buy. It’s a long way to go, actually, but the best is coming. 🙂

  3. I’m so happy to read this post 🙂 I am a supporter of Free Open Source Software. Last week walking in Phnom Penh I saw the Puthisastra University and went it to have a look. It was on holiday, so there was no one, but I could see the program on the wall. I saw that a majority of the topics were Microsoft oriented, which disappointed me and inspired me to write a note and stick it on the wall. On the note I explained shortly why it’s a good idea for the country to favor free software. Many governments and institutions around the world are now realizing that they spend millions of dollars of software licenses, money that is taken from their citizens. It would be fine if there was no other alternative, but there is!
    I believe companies are not strongly enforcing policies against software piracy in south east Asia because that would push users toward Free Software. It’s just a guess, but I believe it’s better for businesses to get everybody hooked on commercial software first, and a few years later when the countries develops further, those people will already depend on Excel, Windows, Photoshop, etc. and companies will be forced to buy those licenses. Others have said that before (you can search for “Microsoft supports piracy” or something similar).
    Today I tweeted that in my two month travel in India, Vietnam and Cambodia I didn’t see a single Linux computer in hotels or Internet cafes, which is also disappointing. All computers ran Windows, and many were infected by worms and viruses (as the antiviruses alerted often).
    I see a huge potential here for spreading of Free Software. I did the switch one year ago. After having used Windows and Mac OS X for years, I got rid of all commercial software and now my operating system is Ubuntu. It’s a great feeling not having to worry about serial numbers, cracks, root kits, key loggers, antiviruses, firewalls… And most software is installed with one single click in the software center, no need to search the Internet, click 20 times on screens…
    I recommend people to give Ubuntu a try. That’s what I did with the goal of being an example for others and be able to help others do the same. The longer you use commercial software the harder it is to switch because you know certain programs, and because the documents you work with are probably locked down to the non free software you used.
    One important thing I realized when I switched to Ubuntu is that at a certain point in our lives as computer users we take a decision without even realizing. For example I decided to use Adobe Lightroom, which is a great program. I invested hundreds of hours editing photographs on that program. Then suddenly I realize it’s not possible to bring the photo adjustments I made on Lightroom to Linux. My work is trapped because Adobe does not develop Lightroom for Linux, and because the file formats they use are secret.
    So I think it’s a good idea to stop for a second and decide which software we will use before we spend thousands of work hours on it. Companies and governments in different parts of the world are now spending a lot of money to get out of this “vendor lock-in” and convert their documents to free alternatives that will save them license costs.
    I’m sorry for the long post! I could talk forever about these topics 🙂

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