From: ada...@saba.kuentos.guam.net (Alan Eugene Davis)
Subject: Linux In Developing Countries
organization: Kuentos Communications Inc.
I am posting in hopes of provoking some discussion on the potential
for Linux and other free software to help people and projects in
developing countries, where computer use is just beginning to
proliferate, by short-curcuiting, as it were, the use of off-the-shelf
products (software), like (You know what). I will present a
brief encapsulation of my experience, and of my views.
I have worked, between 1987 and 1994, for the Chuuk State Department
of Education, in the Caroline Islands (Federated States of
Micronesia). Chuuk is economically depressed. I taught science, and
was selected to teach computer science at Chuuk High School because of
my interest in computers. At first, I used Commodore64 computers, and
was able to present the computer to the students, as an instrument, by
giving short programming exercizes; although we did not have any
"applications" software available, we had 100 disks of public domain
and shareware programs to play around with, some of which worked!
I learned that some money was available to order computers. The Chuuk
DOE had gone toward complete reliance on the mac; I made it a point to
order IBMPC clones. I reasoned that the most fortuitous experience
would be had by ordering a number of the cheapest possible clones,
knowing full well that at least some would break down, leading to the
need to get into board swapping---thus providing an even more
copascetic educational experience. In 1989, we placed an order with
MicroSphere, in Bend, Oregon, for 14 XT clones and 1 AT clone, three
printers with a switchbox, and even 200 disks of shareware, for
Borland took to the idea, and donated two or three boxes of software,
including all their compilers, turbo assembler, and several
"applications". Thus, for practically nothing we had a setup that
would enable us to teach practically any computer science course we
might choose, limited by our knowledge and creativity.
Two days after the computers arrived, I was accused of stealing one of
the computers (no computer had been stolen at all, but one cpu had
been left on a bench without the monitor---which was believed to be
the computer itself) and removed from the computer science faculty;
the machines sat for over six months, after which none of them would
boot up. Eventually David Thompson, former editor of MicroCornucopia,
and brother of the owner of MicroSphere, came to Chuuk and spent a
week training three DOE employees to swap boards, and took all 14
motherboards back to Oregon and replaced them, leaving diagnostic
software behind. As far as I know, Chuuk State has not, even to this
day, six years later, paid the bill for US$14,000.00. However, one of
the techs who was trained by Mr. Thompson, has been able to repair the
machines several times.
Several years have passed, and I have left the Chuuk DOE. Last
summer, I taught at the College of Micronesia, Chuuk, and was
contracted by the College to finish typesetting, as a 180 page book,
the lexicon of animal names in Chuukese I have been collecting for ten
years. I used Linux and (La)TeX. I discussed Linux with the computer
science instructor. He was interested in installing Linux on one
machine, to try it out, but our conflicting schedules did not permit
us install it. I still am committed to helping the College by
getting Linux installed; in fact, in the middle of a letter to the
Computer Science Instructor, I was struck with the idea
of writing this posting.
+ + +
A significant part of the lexicon project that I am now completing has
been enabled in large part by the generous donation of
software---mainly GNU Emacs---by the Free Software Foundation,
in early 1993. Linux and LaTeX, also free software, have likewise
enabled further work: a draft manuscript is substantially complete.
I advocate the use of Free Software in Chuuk, to supplant the use of
software and hardware that Chuuk State cannot possibly afford. Chuuk
is economically depressed, and is now under strong pressure from
International Financial Institutions (including the Asian Development
Bank), as well as, at home, by the Federated States of Micronesia, to
reduce the state's payroll by 20%, which it apparently is planning to
do by enacting a 4 day work week in government. This is going to be
painful: the workers of Chuuk are currently working under a .65
CENT minimum wage. Yet Macintosh software has come to be the
standard in government, and is apparently seen as essential, partly as
the result of a friendship between the state DOE director with the
Apple distributor in the neighboring state of Pohnpei.
Linux and other free software hold the power to enable
computer-critical work in Chuuk State. However, several issues are
involved, some of which are of wide-ranging interest. First of all,
the education department as the college are both teaching commercial
software. There is little recognition in the state of the potential
for various computer uses to improve government services, and the
current uses follow the line of least resistance---word processing,
lotus123, perhaps some dbase. As an example of the tyranny of the
current mode of thinking in government, as of the culture, I would cite
the unwillingness of those in the DOE main office to allow the use of
a Mac scanner---which I saw in use only once in several years---for a
student project. What is needed is a creative and imaginative
computer science program. Linux could drive such a program.
And underlying the problem of lack of vision, I might again recall the
attempt we made to implement a program at Chuuk High School in 1989.
Let's say the problem of trust were solved, and there were really
someone who could teach, say, some C or some Pascal at the High School
Level, and perhaps get into some real time data acquisition. What
This is the issue I would like to put up for discussion. Is anyone
anywhere having any success in implementing a real computer science
program in the vacuum of a third world situation? Can a nuts and
bolts / programming intensive course lead to anything really
meaningful in this context?
To be more specific, perhaps: is Linux being used to drive small
computer science programs out there in the "third world", and is it
making an impact on the use of computers in governments and businesses
in these circumstances?
From: h...@CAM.ORG (Marius Hancu)
Subject: Re: Linux In Developing Countries: Our Experience in Romania
organization: Communications Accessibles Montreal, Quebec Canada
FREE UNIX FOR ROMANIA
- working for the programmers' freedom of choice -
Marius Hancu (1)
Gabriel Climescu (2)
Free Unix for Romania is an international independent non-profit
organization, founded in 1992 by Marius Hancu. Dynamic and
modern, it is based and localized on the Internet, the network spread
over the whole world. It is also an organization working to help in
the technical and scientific progress of Romania.
During its first two years, Free Unix for Romania was coordinated by
Marius Hancu. Since September 21, 1994 it is being coordinated by
Teodor (Ted) Lungu (3).
The initial purpose of Free Unix for Romania was shipping free
software to the Romanian universities, to individuals and companies,
as well as books used in some of the best known universities of the
world. However, at this point in time, it has reached areas and
achievements considerably wider than those planned initially.
Our project has as its main target the introduction to Romania of free
varieties of the well-known Unix operating system, presently used in
all the universities in the world. The target computers are usually
PCs, the computing platform the most used in Romania (as well as in
the whole world). This operating system was not too known in
Romania before 1989, even if attemps in this direction were made
during the 80s (e.g. at ITC).
The systems shipped are complete with programming environments,
editors, compilers for various programming languages, etc. These systems
are freely available for anonymous ftp on various computers all over
the world. However, they were not available in Romania, before the
start of our drive, mainly as a result of poor telecommunications
Being free software, these systems have borrowed heavily from the
experience and products of the GNU project, founded by Richard M.
Stallman, arguably the most famous programmer of our time, at MIT. All
the source code of the GNU tools is available for several years.
Bill Jolitz and Linux Torvalds, two other outstanding programmers
(Linus is only 23 years old and a student), in two independent
projects (386BSD and linux) have also re-designed from the
ground up free Unix kernels. Many other people from all over the world
provided tools and applications for these systems and for variations of
386BSD, (such as FreeBSD and NetBSD).
At the time of this writing, Marius Hancu, Alexandru Rotaru and Irina
Athanasiu are working to ensure the participation of Richard Stallman
and of Linus Torvalds at the ROSE'94 conference in the free software
section. We just hope our efforts will prove fruitful. This would be a
great event for the Romanian software community.
The main base used for the activities of Free Unix for Romania was
Internet, via email and the Usenet newsgroups. A special note deserves
the email list romani...@sep.stanford.edu (installed and
administered by Alexander Mihai Popovici) as well as the newsgroup
soc.culture.romanian (with Nick Sandru of Denmark having a decisive
contribution to the its creation and archiving).
Multiple activities and groups entered gradually under the umbrella of
Free Unix for Romania. We would like to mention 'Know-how for/from
Romania' (administered by Tiberiu Grigoriu, BNR, Ottawa, Canada), a
list which includes specialists from Romania and Moldova which
want to cooperate internationally, as well as specialists from the
whole world, willing to help their colleagues from Romania. Another
list is the email list for Romania (administered by Marius Hancu,
helped by others), covering all the academic and commercial networks
which provide us with relevant data. We have created also several
specialized lists: NEUROM (administered by Daniel Marcu, of University
of Toronto and Gabriel Climescu of University of Neuchatel,
Switzerland); FIZICA (administered by George Dobre, of Kent
University, England); Rom-Unix (administered by Jean-Henry Berevoescu,
Israel), which provides assistance in the Unix domain.
Recently, Florin Radulescu has installed the first Romanian gopher
at PUB, while Gabriel Climescu installed another gopher in Switzerand, at
University of Neuchatel, which exchanges information with the one in
Bucharest. These gophers contain information on Romania (on tourism,
economy, etc). These servers can be accessed from anywhere in the
world. Recently, Octavian Ureche from the Universite de Montreal has
installed the first home page for Romania on World Wide Web. Others
have contributed information related to Romania for WWW.
Gradually, we started to contribute to the establishment and the
consolidation of the national computer networks in Romania
(especially of the academic ones), via software, on-line help and
advice, and remote testing.
It was not easy, but we have been helped by many generous people, who:
- obtained free software, recorded it, transported it (many Gbytes
have been sent in Romania)
- donated diskettes, magnetic tapes, CD-ROMs, terminals, printers and
- contributed financially (their contributions have been utilised
maily for shipping computer books to the universities of Romania)
- distributed, installed, and tested free software in Romania
- registered their name on the Know-how for/from Romania list.
It would be difficult to give a complete list of all contributors
(only the donation list contains more than 200 persons), but we are
deeply grateful to all of them.
As one of the main successes, we would like to mention that linux, one
of the Unix-like operating systems which we have continuously shipped,
is presently installed in over 125 places in Romania and Moldova.
Concerning the support base of Free Unix for Romania, we would
like to emphasize that it was defined from the very
beginning as a grassroots type of organization, relying on the
enthusiasm of computer hobbists and professionals. At this level, the
success has been remarkable, as we managed in less than a year to practically
cover the entire surface of Romania with free software distribution
centers, of course of various sizes.
Our appeal to private or government organizations, both in the West as
well as in Romania, has not had the same success. We have sent
information on our activities to the Romanian embassies in Washington
and Paris, for example, without receiving any reply. We were received
with understanding at the American and Canadian Embassies in
Bucharest, but we have not had any concrete results in terms of
donations (obtaining, however, a list of organizations which could be
contacted in this respect). Several persons have contacted various
Western foundations, using our presentations, in order to obtain
support: we have not yet obtained any concrete results.
In these circumstances, we have been extremely pleased and surprised
with the approval of our application made to the Soros Foundation for
an Open Society in Romania. A substantial grant of 10,000 US$ (the
maximum allowed) was awarded to us in order to buy and ship
Unix books to more than a dozen universities in the whole country.
The shipment was coordinated personally by Marius Hancu and was
done by many enthousiast volunteers of Romanian origin in Canada and
the United States (PhD students or professionals). By the effort of
the Soros Foundation and of GURU (the Romanian Group for Unix Users,
chaired by Alexandru Rotaru) the free software which we are constantly
sending has been distributed to over 25 high schools in Romania.
Technical education camps were provided by the Soros Foundation and
the GURU organization, where the high school students and their
teachers were familiarized with free software products.
We must underline here the exceptional efforts done by our
collaborators in Romania, such as Prof. Irina Athanasiu, Prof. Mircea
Bodea, Alexandru Rotaru, Prof. Viorel Negru, Prof. Ioan Jurca, Prof.
Cristian Ionitoiu, Prof. Petru Eles, Daniel Dumitriu, Claudius Dan,
Sorin Spanoche, Dragos and Mihai Manolescu, Mihai Pop, Eugen Rotariu
and many more who have contributed to the spreading of our actions.
Without their contribution, nothing could have been possible.
Concerning the Romanian government organizations, we have not yet been
able to start a real dialogue. It seems that their reaction speed does
not match the rhythm of our drive. However, even if we have not had direct
contacts with the CNI (the National Council on Informatics), we are in
direct dialogue with many specialists from ICI (the Central Institute
on Informatics), especially with Eugen Staicut, which, just like Nicolae
(Nini) Popovici of the Politehnica University Bucharest, has had a
capital contribution in the creation of the Romanian academic networks
(ROERN and PUB). However, no official contacts have been established.
Another example in the same line: the Ministry of Technology made an
appeal last year for assistance, addressed to the Romanian specialists
living abroad. At that point in time, the Know-how list was defined to
a large extent. We informed the Ministry that the list existed,
however we did not have any reply.
However, in terms of institutional contacts, we have recorded some
success in our contacts with CEPES (Centre Europeen Pour
l'Enseignement Superieur) of Bucharest, with which we exchange
For the time being, our strategy is based on personal contacts and the
work of individuals. Should our results in contact with government
organizations improve, we will change our strategy.
Our choice for linux as a operating system and programming environment
has proven to be very fortunate. Presently, many communication servers in
such large university centers as Cluj, Iasi, Sibiu, as well as on the
large LAN of PUB are linux-based, with very good performance. This
avoided tremendous costs for the universities involved. Tens of
university students and professors have also adopted linux as their
programming environment of choice on their PCs at home or work. The great
effort of GURU (sponsored by the Soros Foundation) to make free
software in general and linux in particular popular in the Romanian
high-schools seems to be a success, especially with the students,
which are of course our main target audience. The next step is to see
many more programmers from Romania getting involved not only as
consumers but also as authors, in the projects
such as those carried by Free Software Foundation and the linux
project. We have tried to help GURU in this effort by providing at all
times recent versions of such free software and have to underline the
considerable help we have received in this respect from the
international free software community (via shipments of linux and GNU
CD-ROMs, books, etc).
As a result of these efforts, many university centers in Romania are
really '1994' in terms of date of their Unix and linux systems.
However, problems still exist concerning the awareness of all
potential users with respect to the large pool of free software already
available in Romania, and of the sites and people involved, which can
and do provide free assistance. Sometimes, old attitudes related to
secrecy creep showing up ... We at Free Unix for Romania have
permanently and vigorously fought against such manifestations and
will continue to do so.
We have to appreciate the interest the Romanian media have shown to
our work. Initially, this was localized at the PC Report magazine in
Targu Mures, which published several articles on our organization and
free software (especially linux). Lately however, several Romanian newspaper
have email access and have described part of our activities. We would
like to emphasize especially the work of Eugen Rotariu and U.
Valureanu. In order to help the users in Romania follow up more closely
the developments in the linux world, we have also made subscriptions
for several professors to the Linux Journal.
In concluding, we have shown through Free Unix for Romania, that a
coherent, decisive and efficient action is possible in the Romanian
international community, if the necessary effort is used. Presently,
for the Romanians on Internet, without false modesty, Free Unix for
Romania has become a model to follow.
We hope that the technical progress in Romania will continue, and that it
will accelerate. The introduction of academic and commercial networks
in Romania also contributed to reducing the difference in terms the
introduction and knowledge of Unix, which was considerable two years
ago. Presently, several institutions in Romania can ftp directly, from
Internet, programs without our assistance (unfortunately, this is
valid only for medium sized programs).
We very much hope that the Romanian telecommunication networks
will make progress. Presently, for example, Poland is using bit rates
of 64Kbits/s or even 2Mbits/s, while the Romanian networks operate at
9.8Kbits/s. In our opinion, the quality of telecommunications will be
the number one factor in the progress of Romanian computer and
telecommunication industry in the next decade. In this respect, we
hope that more Romanian universities will follow the example of the
Politehnica University of Bucharest, by connecting themselves to
Internet. And we also hope that the Romanian government and other
national and international organizations will help the PUB to remain
connected to internet.
Finally, we wish success to the participants to this conference and
(1) Centre de Recherche Informatique de Montreal (CRIM), 1801,
avenue McGill College, Bureau 800, Montreal, Quebec H3A 2N4, Canada
; fax: 514-398-1244, E-mail : h...@crim.ca
(2) Universite de Neuchatel, Avenue de Premier Mars 27, 2000
Neuchatel, Suisse fax: 126.96.36.199, E-mail : clime...@seco.unine.ch
(3) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology,
Microwave Atmospheric Science Group, 4800 Oak Grove Dr, Pasadena CA,
91109, USA; fax: (818) 393-5065, E-mail: l...@thak.jpl.nasa.gov