Meeting brief information note
Tuesday 20 January 2009
UNESCO Headquarters, Paris
1. Context and goal of the meeting
UNESCO has adopted the ‘Free Open Source’ approach on its information management software tools (ISIS, IDAMS, Greenstone) and is therefore looking at the best way to make a ‘transition’ to such new approach with new roles to be defined.
As Mr. Egbert de Smet is a member of the newly created International Coordination Committee of ISIS (ICCI), and very active in the development CDS/ISIS software and other library applications, it appeared appropriate to invite him at UNESCO for an initial discussion to prepare a transition strategy for UNESCO’s support to CDS/ISIS.
A meeting took place at UNESCO on 20 January 2009.
The participants were:
· Mrs. Miriam Nisbet, Director of Information Society Division of UNESCO
· Mr. René Cluzel, ICT Chief a.i. ICT in Education, Sciences, and Culture, UNESCO
· Mr. Jean-Claude Dauphin, Information Society program specialist in charge of ISIS-software support, Information Society Division of UNESCO
· Mr. Davide Storti, former ISIS-officer at UNESCO
· Mr. Egbert de Smet, representative of ICCI and the ISIS-users community
2. Issues discussed
2.1 CDS/ISIS community expectations
Mr. de Smet, speaking on behalf of the ISIS-users community, presented an overview of the present situation together with the user expectations regarding the role of UNESCO and its new possible commitment for supporting CDS/ISIS:
· He formulated a growing concern within the community about the level and nature of UNESCO’s involvement with ISIS in the near and remote future, this in view of the new FOSS approach;
· The CDS/ISIS user community fully understands the fact that technical development (programming) cannot be expected from UNESCO any longer, also in view of the highly complicated nature of such development nowadays for modern software. This is one of the reasons the FOSS approach was embraced (i.e. at the Rio Conference);
· The CDS/ISIS user community is expecting from UNESCO a clear statement on its further commitment;
· The CDS/ISIS user community states that minimal support to ISIS from UNESCO would include the following elements:
· The CDS/ISIS user community is expecting that UNESCO still wants to ‘lend’ its name and ‘quality label’ to ISIS; and that
· UNESCO keeps distributing, both electronically and physically, all ISIS-related software from their website and office; the website will be maintained to this end by a UNESCO staff member;
As long as the member states –as is apparently the case now – still support ISIS as an important activity of UNESCO within its IFAP and Information Society goals, the budget granted to this project should be maintained but rather ‘out-sourced’ to external partners.
It is in the light of this last idea that the MoU with BIREME has to be seen. BIREME is quite prepared to continue its technical development on ISIS – mostly with the new NBP platform (Network Based Platform) – but requests formal recognition on this.
According to Mr de Smet, other ways of ‘out-sourcing’ ISIS support needs to continue to be financial and organizational support for training activities and promotion. However in view of re-orientation of UN activities such initiatives need to be delegated to external entities and funding should be sought from external sources.
2.2 UNESCO’s views
Mrs. Nisbet responded that UNESCO is – and always has been – fully prepared to continue its support to CDS/ISIS. The UNESCO’s mandate remains explicit to pursue its support to CDS/ISIS, and, more generally, to other UNESCO’s information management free open source software.
UNESCO will provide its support in a different way as done since 1985, when UNESCO started its support to CDS/ISIS. During this period, UNESCO has provided managerial, operational, technical and financial support to the CDS/ISIS software development, its dissemination and training of users and trainers, and included human and financial resources in its successive biennial programmes and budget.
The FOSS movement has great potentials in terms of software development, capacity-building, and sustainability. A number of success stories could be taken as examples of what could be envisaged and possibly done. They are based on strong communities of users and developers, backed by sustainable foundations. Without being exhaustive, one may mention the Mozilla Foundation, OpenBSD Foundation, and Apache Software Foundation. These foundations have implemented their organizational model, way of work, business models, and their market is growing compared to their proprietary counterparts.
For CDS/ISIS and other UNESCO software, a similar approach could be envisaged and based on such models.
For this purpose, UNESCO is studying possible partnerships with organizations or institutions, which could conduct the elaboration of models for such a transformation, the adoption of one of these models, and lead the transition from the present situation to a self-sustainable organization. In particular, UNESCO is studying possible Memorandum of Understanding with BIREME and SUN-Microsystems that should be understood as ingredients of a comprehensive strategy to transform CDS/ISIS into free open source software and build a sustainable environment for its further development and broader dissemination. UNESCO is also studying its new role in such a new configuration, and the corresponding resources.