Vietnam Open Source Movement: Lesson from Cambodia

John Tim Denny, our E-learner 2.0 Advisor, told the story of Noy Shoung, Deputy Secretary General at the National Information Communications Technology Department of Cambodia:

Every day he translates at least 500 words on key voluntary projects that help all Cambodians. Noy is working tirelessly to translate the operating system and software for the OLPC XO computer.  When the job is done OLPC will send some 4000 laptops to Cambodia which will go a long way in helping young Cambodians attain a better education. Noy is again working hard to localise the #1 Linux distribution Ubuntu. Noy is also a big supporter of open communities translating the world’s leading FOSS based CMS. Noy’s program has taught some 3000+ people how to use OpenOffice and he’s gonna do the same thing with Joomla. He’s extremely busy and gets only a few hours of sleep each night.

The Ministry of Information and Communications of Vietnam has recently introduced an instruction on using open source software at state agencies. According to Vietnamnet:

By June  30 2009, 100% of clients of IT divisions of state agencies must be installed with Open Source software: OpenOffice, Firefox, Thunderbird and the Vietnamese typing Unikey. 100 % staff at these agencies must be trained and at least 50% use them proficiently.

This piece of news ignited a heated debate on Slashdot, not within the Vietnamese technology community. Because the Vietnamese are in doubt: whether the government is paying lip service, or taking the matter seriously.

No matter what the circumstance may be, there’s one point I’d like to make in this post: in order for OSS to become a movement in Vietnam, it not only requires one or two top-down instructions like the above-mentioned, but also someone as dedicated as Noy at the top who devotes their life to the cause.

The decision is good by nature, but it should be handled with followed-through commitments. Otherwise, it’s yet another platitude.

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