Report on FOSSC-Oman' 2013

Last week, February 18-19, LPI representatives attended the Free & Open Source Software Conference in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman (FOSSC-Oman’ 2013).  The conference was jointly organized by the Communication and Information Research Center (CIRC) at Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and the Information Technology Authority of Oman (ITA). The conference was targeted at ICT professionals, staff and students from SQU and the broader FOSS community. FOSSC-Oman’ 2013 was the first edition of this event which will be hosted every two years in Oman.

<ABOVE: Jim Lacey (third from right) seated with conference dignataries and special guests at the opening ceremonies of FOSSC Oman 2013. Feras Abou Shackra (black suit) of LPI-Middle East is seated directly behind Mr. Lacey and next to Fahad Al Abri, Director General at IT Authority in Oman >

Jim Lacey, president and CEO of LPI was the keynote speaker during the event.  Also attending on behalf of LPI was Feras Abou Shackra of LPI-Middle East  and Yaqoob Al Farsi--LPI's representative in Oman.  LPI representatives met with a number of officials during the conference including the following: H.E. Dr. Ahmed Mohammed Salem Al-Futaisi  (Minister of Transport & Communication), H.E. Dr. Ali Al-Bemani (Vice Chancellor for Sultan Qaboos University), Dr. Salim Sultan Al Ruzaiqi (Chief Executive Officer at Information Technology Authority - ITA), and Mr. Fahad Al-Abri (Director General at Information Technology Authority - ITA).  LPI's representatives also met with students of Sultan Qaboos University who had obtained their LPIC certification.

<RIGHT: Jim Lacey, Keynote Presentation at FOSSC-Oman>

Objectives of FOSSC-Oman included:

  • Support the National Free and Open source Initiative of Oman
  • Promote awareness on the use and development of Free and Open Source Software in Oman and the region
  • Enhance the opportunities on Open Source for the ICT Industry in Oman
  • Provide an attractive environment for networking FOSS users, and experts
  • Share mutual experiences and discuss potential implementations of FOSS

The conference was hosted under the patronage of H.E. Dr. Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Futaisi, Minister of Transport & Communications and was sponsored by the Linux Professional Institute, RedHat, Intel, FOSS Students Society, Omani Inventors, SOD Technologies, Qurum Business Group, CITRIX, IBM/GBM, and Rafeed.  LPI was also the "Knowledge Partner" for the event.

During the conference FOSS laboratories at three main educational institutions were launched at the following locations: Higher College of Technology, Nizwa University, and SQU. The labs are equipped with the latest instruments to help students and researchers who use the services. The conference also outlined plans for a FOSS portal to facilitate access to Open Source Software and to be hosted by SQU. A detailed news report of the event is available at this webpage.

<LEFT: Mr. Fahad Al-Abri, Director General at Information Technology Authority - ITA and Jim Lacey at the newly launched FOSS Lab at SQU>

LPI staff interviewed Jim Lacey following the event to obtain his reflection on FOSSC-Oman’ 2013.

QUESTION:  Last week you were the main keynote speaker at FOSSC in Oman. Can you summarize for us what were your main messages for the conference?

Jim Lacey: Whenever I have a speaking opportunity I try to emphasize certain key points which are necessary to LPI's future, the development of the Open Source ecosystem and to domestic or national IT industries everywhere:

(1) Capacity Building: it is important that we all invest now in the human element of our IT infrastructure in order to be prepared for the future
(2) Innovation: we also need to invest in training programs and technologies that foster innovation.  Open Source Software is obviously a leader in this regard.
(3) Youth Entrepreneurship: presently the demand for IT professionals can not keep up with supply.  Therefore educating youth in IT skills is a policy priority.  However, as much as the technical skills are important so too are business skills--innovation and entrepreneurship are two sides of the same coin.
(4) Digital Content: this is particularly true for making resources available in local languages.  Digital content is both accessible and affordable and easy to distribute to the end user.

All of these focus points resonated while I was in Oman.  Essentially much of their challenge is the same as we have at LPI or in other jurisdictions.  We need to invest in our workforce, our IT organizations, our capacity for innovation and our educational resources.

QUESTION:  What were your "take aways" from the conference?  Were their some particular highlights, insights or observations that you would like to share?

Jim Lacey: We truly believe, at LPI, that our organization is their organization in Oman--as it is elsewhere.  I was impressed in my discussions how many of the policy makers, educators, and IT professionals of Oman were interested in seeing their nation take a leadership role in Open Source technology.  This was actively demonstrated to me when I had the opportunity of meeting some students from Sultan Qaboos University who were participating in an "Open Source Challenge".  They had an exhibition area where they were showcasing the various Open Source Software projects these students were working on.  The excitement, dedication, and commitment to Open Source Software of these young people was visibly palpable. It was fun just being in the same room as them and listen to them describe their projects.

QUESTION: Your keynote presentation was on the "New Era of Open Source" and you were quoted in the media as noting that "last year 1.5 million cloud computing jobs went unfilled because people lack the skills in FOSS.” Can you expand on this statement a little and why that is relevant to LPI and for FOSSC in particular.

Jim Lacey: Cloud technology and Open Source Software are closely associated.  If you are learning Open Source technology you will also be learning what skills you need to enable cloud technology.  Even if the specific cloud technology that you are working on isn't entirely built on Open Source Software chances are that there will be a component that is.  These two technologies are close.

Cloud technology is clearly growing and educating people on Open Source Software is important to supporting that growth.  If we don't get in front of this now it will stagnate that growth.  More than 50% of businesses say that cloud computing is one of their top business priorities. SMB's, in particular, are experiencing this now: they want to move to Cloud technologies as they don't want to be concerned about scaling their own IT infrastructure as they grow.  IT professionals skilled in Open Source Software are in high demand at the moment--85% of hiring managers are saying Linux talent is hard to find. This trend will only continue if we don't make the necessary investments in workforce development, training and certification.

QUESTION: Do you have any final messages for the participants of FOSSC-Oman'2012?

Jim Lacey: We encourage all of you to join our conversation at LPI.  Participate in the discussion on the future of Open Source.  Our social media tools, be it Facebook (www.facebook.com/LPIConnect) or twitter (@lpiconnect), Linkedin or our mailing lists are open to you.  We want to hear from you, we want you to be part of a larger community and we want to engage with you.  The conversation is just starting -- let's build something together for the future.  Again, our organization is your organization.


<ABOVE: Jim Lacey Keynote presentation at FOSSC-Oman 2013>

For additional information on LPI activities in the Middle East please contact LPI-Middle East: http://www.lpime.org

Pictures from FOSSC-Oman' 2013 are available at this webpage.

Other links on FOSSC-Oman' 2013:

http://www.squ.edu.om/webnews/tabid/4449/language/en-US/Default.aspx?nid=1867&lang=e&cssid=1
http://www.ita.gov.om/ITAPortal/ITA/default.aspx
http://www.ita.gov.om/ITAPortal/MediaCenter/NewsDetail.aspx?NID=48