The issue of “Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for (Private Sector) Development” is a common thrust of most of the actions reported under the section “Open Source IT business”. Therefore, the following section reports on some of the definitions, advantages and challenges related to FOSS in the field of capacity building in an international development cooperation setting. I also provide some links to foundational Texts in the area, which I recommend.

What is Free and Open Source Software? Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is software which is liberally licensed to grant the right of users to study, change, and improve its design through the availability of its source code. The emphasis on openness in FOSS has fostered the growth of a world-wide community of FOSS developers contributing to a large pool of software programmes ranging, from operating systems, middleware and web servers, to business and office applications.More definitions of “Free and Open Source Software” as well as “Free Software” and “Open Source Software” can be found in Wikipedia.
What is Capacity Building? In the context of development cooperation, “Capacity Building“ encompasses advanced professional training, as well as human resources and organisational development. Its aim is to enhance the partners’ capacities to plan and implement viable development strategies and policies. Advanced professional training is perceived as part of human resource development, which consequently shapes the development of organisations. Important instruments for sustainable capacity building include: Advanced education and training, Dialogue, Building networks and Advisory services for human resources development.More information on capacity-building, see again wikipedias page on capacity building.
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Why should Free and Open Source Software be a focus of capacity-building in the field of information and communication technologies for development? Several arguments support the promotion of FOSS in the context of development cooperation and sustainable capacity-building:Legality: Experts estimate that in many developing countries more than 90% of all software is “pirated”, i.e. illegally copied proprietary software. Current developments of ratifying international trade agreements have great impact on intellectual property protection, and enforce the adherence to copyright licenses. The liberal FOSS licenses allow for copying, sharing, and modifying of software programmes. FOSS guarantees legality without the need to buy extra software licenses for each computer that runs the copy of a programme.
Cost: As FOSS programmes can be freely shared, users do not incur license fees. One programme can be freely installed on an endless number of computers. While costs for system support and services remain, FOSS still is seen by many experts as a cost-efficient solution, particularly in view of scaling up of ICT solutions and regular software upgrades.
Adaptability + Localization: With FOSS, Software developers in developing countries can build on already existing FOSS solutions and adapt them to local needs as well as produce FOSS applications in their local languages. One example is the Cambodian FOSS solution in Khmer, which is supported by it-foss. Using FOSS, local software developers neither have to depend on products tailored to foreign requirements, nor have to develop their own software from scratch.
Local Economic Development: Rather than purchasing software abroad, local FOSS development, sales and services keep resources within the local economy, avoid dependencies, and provide opportunities for income generation and employment. Developing countries can develop their own software market, fostering their own intellectual capacities, and supporting ICT applications in sectors such as government, education, or Health.More information on the issue is online at http://www.ict-innovation.fossfa.netMore recommended sources are:BMZ (2018): Glossary Digitalisation and Sustainable Development , Chapter „Open Source“, p. 92f, Online unter:  (Abgerufen am 24.7.2019)BMZ (2018): „BMZ Toolkit 2.0 – Digitalisierung in der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit“ (in German, will be translated soon)

  1. Kapitel 4.3.3 „Open Source – Nutzung und Entwicklung freier Software“, inklusive „Checkliste 1: Lokale Begebenheiten und korrespondierende Stärken freier Software“ und Checkliste 2: Lokale Begebenheiten und Hindernisse für den Einsatz von freier Software“.
  2. Kapitel 3.8 „Ausschreibung von Digitalprojekten – Entscheidungshilfe: Open Source oder lizensierte, proprietäre Softwarelösungen

Online unter: (Abgerufen am 24.7.2019)

UNCTAD (2013): Promoting local IT-Sector Development Through Public Procurement. On FOSS, see particularly chapter 3.6.3 Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Online at (As of 25.7.2019)

UNDP-APDIP (2006): Breaking Barriers. The potential of Free and Open Source Software for Sustainable Human Development. A Compilation of Case Studies around the World. Particularly Chapter 1: “Overview: Why FOSS, for What and the Challenges ahead”. Online at: (Abgerufen am 24.7.2019).

Busch, Thorsten (2007): Freie Software als Entwicklungshelfer. Corporate Citizenship und der Digital Divide aus ökonomischer, ethischer und unternehmensstrategischer Sicht. (In German only) Online at: (Abgerufen am 24.7.2019).

Seibold, Balthas (2009): Die globale digitale Kluft ist eine Lern- und Innovationskluft. (In German only) Besonders „Fallbeispiel Free and Open Source Software“ S. 265. In: Dabrowski, Martin / Aufderheide, Detlef (Ed.) (2009): Internetökonomie und Ethik. Wirtschaftsethische und moralökonomische Perspektiven des Internets. Duncker & Humblot. Berlin, p. 255 – 267.

United Nations University Press (2012): Free and Open Source Software and Technology for Sustainable Development. Online at:

What are some of the key business models related to FOSS for development? What kind of training material exists on this issue? The use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is not only becoming more and more common by companies and administrations worldwide, it is also becoming a method for innovative IT-companies to achieve higher turnover. According to studies, more than 60.000 companies are already building their businesses around the development of – and/or provision of service for – Free and Open Source Software in the European Union. But, business models based on FOSS offer great potential for developing and transition countries as well, as the development and distribution of FOSS follows the principles of ownership, local value addition, empowerment and participation. Thereby, FOSS provides ample opportunities for the development of a local ICT economy, creation and transfer of ICT knowledge, legal use of software and access of poorer communities to ICTs. With more and more governments such as South Africa, Brazil and others promoting FOSS and becoming potential customers, more and more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are discovering FOSS as a theme for building their businesses. Therefore, InWEnt has been selected the theme of “FOSS business models” as an important pillar of its capacity building work.Free your IT-Business in Africa!
The major outcome of this work has been a suite of training material on African “Free and Open Source Software” (FOSS) business models. The training material has been collaboratively developed by a group of experts from Africa and Europe and is titled “ict@innovation: Free your IT-Business in Africa! Advanced Training Material on African “Free and Open Source Software” (FOSS) Business Models for IT-SMEs”. The training material has been created for African small and medium ICT enterprises interested in creating or adapting business models with Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).The material is modular and includes African case studies. It can be used by small and medium company managers and employees as well as by ICT-associations, universities, training institutions and freelance trainers interested in training or consulting small and medium enterprises on FOSS business models.Downloads of all training material is online at the training material section of this site. More info is on the fossfa site at


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