Gender, Labour Minister Frank Tumwebaze.

Uganda is hosting the 7th African Summit on Free and Open Source (FOSS) and the ‘Digital Commons’ (IDLELO) conference at the Speke Resort, Munyonyo.

The Conference that began on August 22 is organized under the auspices of the Free Software and Open Source Foundation Africa (FOSSFA) in conjunction with the Ministry of Information, ICT and Communications under Minister Frank Tumwebaze and the National Information Technology Authority (NITA-U) under James Saaka.

The main objectives of the summit include appraisal of Government Policy support of FOSS and Local Digital Content development, and promote the integration and adoption of FOSS and Local Digital Content in National Policies for countries in Africa, and to share experiences from other countries on how to promote, utilize and sustain the use of FOSS and Development of Local Digital Content in the country.

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The conference comes in the wake of the President Yoweri Museveni’s recent visit to the US, where he made a commitment to evaluate the proposal that Uganda like her neighbours, consider using the cheaper yet equally efficient Open Source Software as an alternative to using Proprietary Software which is far too expensive. As a follow up, the President directed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to follow up implementation of the commitment with the responsible Ministry.

‘The Government Uganda through the Permanent Secretaries Forum in 2013 decried the huge expenditure on licenses government spends on propriety software and their negative impact towards the implementation of the Information Technology (IT) Services Rationalization Strategy and subsequent roll out of e-government services

The Ministry of ICT was subsequently directed to analyse the situation and come up with informed recommendations for expediting of use of free open Source Software (FOSS) as an alternative to propriety software,’ a statement from the foreign affairs ministry reads in part.

According to the release, the Ministry of ICT developed a draft Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Policy and Strategy that is pending presentation and approval by Cabinet. Some of the constituent strategies in the FOSS Policy and strategy include collaboration and partnerships in regard to FOSS Initialization and sustenance of awareness, education and training to build Competitive FOSS Capacity, and to promote FOSS usage in Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs).

In March 2015 the Secretary General of COMESA issued a communique on Open Source Guidelines adopted at the Eighth Meeting of the Ministers of Infrastructure responsible for Transport, Communications, Information Technology and Energy held in Djibouti, Republic of Djibouti in October, 2014 adopted the guidelines on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

The earlier IDLELO summits were held in Nairobi (2014), Abuja (2012), Accra (2010) and Dakar (2008) and Johannesburg (2006).

The conference is being attended by officials from Office of the President – Uganda, Prime Minister’s Office – Uganda, Government Delegates and Innovators from African Countries, COMESA Secretariat, Lead MDAs for the development of FOSS and Digital Content in Uganda Government, Policy Makers in MDAs/LGS – Uganda.

Others are Government MDAs – beneficiaries of FOSS Solutions and Digital Content, Private Sector – beneficiaries of FOSS Solutions and Digital Content; Local Innovators and Digital Content Developers and Researchers and Academia.