OSCA - OpenSource Computing in Afghanistan - ACOSS - Afghan Center for OpenSource Systems in Public Organizations
In many parts of the world public and private organizations struggle to convert their IT/IS infrastructures to OpenSource systems. In some cases, large-scale government-sponsored projects are under way to utilize OpenSouce software. Notably, Prime Minister Putin of Russia recently has ordered the complete Russian federal sector to convert its systems to Linux/OpenSource software by 2015.
At present, the (rudimentary) use of OpenSource IT infrastructures and information systems in Afghanistan's public institutions is mostly confined to a small number of leading public universities. The general knowledge how to utilize OpenSource application systems and IT infrastructures seems to be minimal and up to now a competence center for OpenSource systems which could provide professional training and technical/consulting support for the utilization of OpenSource infrastructures in the Afghan public sector is missing.
Things seem to go awfully wrong in Afghan public institutions during the present build-up phase of IT/IS infrastructures: Because of a general lack of knowledge and competencies, in most cases the investments in proprietary IT/IS infrastructure will lead to systems which will not be sustainable and will have to be rebuild again from scratch in the years ahead (and with OpenSource software at their core). There are rumors that one of the leading software vendors already has approached the Afghan Government and asked for license fees for using its PC software in the government sector (Afghan colleagues insist that a nine digit USD amount of money was requested).
In most cases, Afghanistan's government organizations and public institutions will have no other chance but to rely on OpenSource systems and infrastructures in the future and it is urgently required to build-up the necessary expertise in Afghanistan and especially in Kabul.
The OSCA initiative – OpenSource Computing in Afghanistan – proposes a program which comprises a set of projects under the roof of a stable non-profit core organization: The ACOSS-PO Afghan Center for OpenSource Systems in Public Organizations. OSCA aims at the following goals:
1. Internal capacity building (educating, maintaining, and developing a group of professional IT specialists, trainers, and consultants)
2. External capacity building (training programs for the Afghan Government and public institutions)
3. Providing professional IT, IS, and consulting support for the Afghan Government and public institutions in Afghanistan.
The Afghan Center for OpenSource Systems should be self-sufficient after a build-up period of about five years. The fees charged for ACOSS services should not be competitive and at such a level that other Afghan IT/IS service providers encounter little competition when they offer equivalent services to public institutions.
Building-up ACOSS over a period of about five years until the organization is self-sufficient (excluding the budgets allocated for research activities and OpenSource promotion) will require a budget of about 3.5 to 6.5 million USD. It can be expected that ACOSS will have the potential to leverage significant cost savings in the Afghan public sector with regard to the deployment and management of IT infrastructures and information systems which will – by far – offset the initial investment to set up the institution.
It is suggested to conduct a feasibility study to further enhance the - at present - shaky planning basis and to allow for more informed decisions about the proposed project.