Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Open source - opening minds

The joys of modern technology! As part of our aim to make the Agriculture College a really excellent place to study I'm setting up a learning zone website so the students can access up to date information in lots of formats, (audio, video and  pdf files). It's not rocket science and this type of material is taken for granted in the west. Over here it is a different story. Slow and unreliable Internet connections make it difficult to depend on as a way of delivering this type of content. The solution is to run the website from the computers rather than on the web. The site still looks like it's on the internet and runs at a cracking speed. It's been good fun setting it up. I've been hoarding all the resources that the website links to for some time now, (“for a time such as this”). I'm on a bit of a mission to make ICT affordable in our part of Kenya. I'm a great fan of open source, (i.e. free), software. Two programs in particular have helped me with my current ICT projects.

For the day to day business of creating documents, spreadsheets and presentation I've been using an office suite called Libre Office. It's completely free and is a total replacement for the much more expensive Microsoft Office. It's also very easy to use as it hasn't upgraded to the MS Office ribbon style of interface, (those of you who have experienced this 'innovation' and found it less than impressive will know what I'm talking about). Libre Office has done all that I need it to for the last month and I've just installed it on our school and college laptops. It opens and saves MS Office files, (including files saved in the new versions). If you want to find out more go to

The second piece of free software that I'm really keen on is called kompozer. It's a web site design program and gives the much more expensive Dreamweaver a run for it's money. I've just created the whole Learning Zone website on it. It's easy to use and will help our students to learn all the basic skills they need, as well as providing them with a great learning resource.

Go to the link below to download the program

If tonight;s blog seems a bit of an advert I must apologise. I have nothing against Microsoft or Adobe, (the company that produces Dreamweaver). They produce great products. The problem is that schools in Africa just can't afford them, even with generous discounts. Open source software opens important doors for our students and will 'scale' fantastically well. Talking up the ICT revolution in the developing world is no substitute for making it legally accessible to the next generation of African citizens.

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