OSS Reflections from Egypt :)

Group 6, congratulations for the great work. Content was very much informative and engaging.

In this post, I’ll briefly try to reflect to one or more of the blog discussion topics you raised. From my own experience working for commercial IT companies, the OSS do exists in Egypt but with lower market share if compared to commercial software. There could be many reasons but the most obvious is the political power that international/global IT companies have established so far. For Example, company like IBM has established a research and commercial branch in Egypt since 1954, with this very early presence you can expect the type of relations IBM has with local government. Companies like Microsoft and Oracle had also established very strong connection with the government here. The driver for this type of partnership is a Win-Win situation, where commercial companies would offer very special prices and discounts as part of national-wide agreements, I recall few years ago there was an offer for college students to have Microsoft Office for less than $10. Of course with the economy of scale and future expansion would make such a deal justifiable. Initiatives to train K-12 teachers for almost zero cost encourages the ministry of education here to participate in Intel Future Teacher program, which mainly adopt the WinTel (Windows running over Intel processor) setup.

Another point I like to reflect on, is Moodle as open source. As M6 content showed, there are many ways to compare OSS with Commercial in terms of maintenance. Where I work now, we do offer Moodle services for our customers (Universities in the Middle East region). I’m always very careful when I promote Moodle to any prospect and make sure to set the right expectation. Many would be deceived that because it’s OSS there would be no hidden costs. On the contrary, you have to be prepared to host Moodle as if it’s a commercial software. You either need to have your own pool of resources who are very much capable of supporting Moodle and able to integrate it with other campus applications (like the Student Information System), or you should have a commercial agreement for support and maintenance with commercial company. That’s why beside Moodle.org , there’s Moodle.COM (the commercial arm of Moodle). But Moodle as OSS saves the customer the up front investment of purchasing users license, an excellent option to redirect part of the technology budget to other resources (hardware or other commercial applications). Nevertheless, I’ve ran into customers who don’t want to hear the word OSS !!, they want commercial and commercial only solutions, simply they want to deal with “real” single owner (a mortar and brick company) rather than virtual multiple owners – that is in thousands or even in millions -.

Still the OSS is attracting many developers here in Egypt and this is only one example http://www.eglug.org/  it’s the GNU Linux chapter in Egypt. Also I know of many other small companies who built their solution on top of OSS, biggest example I can think of web portals and content management solutions on top of Drupal and Joomla.


1 Byron Kask { 10.26.09 at 2:04 pm }


I appreciate your perspective on OSS, especially the difference that location makes. It’s interesting that the deep roots of some big companies will have so much influence on the software choices people make later on. This was mentioned in another discussion with regards to the need for children to learn the rules of the genre of application rather than be locked in by the idiosyncratic nature of each type of software. Based on your location, do you think that cultural/conventions/language needs are met better by OSS or PS?

BTW, I knew that Moodle had commercial partners, but I’d never been to moodle.com.

2 davidp { 10.26.09 at 8:06 pm }

Ammar… great post.

Nice to see this well-informed perspective on the evolution of the software market in Egypt.

Your last point about companies building web-based content systems on top of of OSS software platforms is revealing. I would venture to say that this is a worldwide phenomenon, and the two products you mention are strong contenders in the web content management space. Neither can really be exploited without a strong integrator or service company to support the implementation, which further builds the case for the real business opportunities that exist with OSS platforms, as you noted in the context of Moodle and Moddle.com.

Thanks for sharing your insights.


3 Iris Chan { 10.27.09 at 5:01 am }

The way you have identified the variety of customers and what they expect from OSS is a very valuable point. Whether someone would appreciate single or multiple ownership is at the heart of OSS and whether they buy into it or not relies heavily on this “trust” issue.

4 davidp { 10.27.09 at 7:59 am }


One of the trust issues associated with OSS is that you always have access to the source code. Not the case with proprietary software.

If a company goes bankrupt, software users are often left with nothing and no recourse to get access to the code to service or modify their systems. I would argue that the trust issue is much stronger with OSS because it is open from start to finish.

5 Ammar Al-Attiyat { 10.27.09 at 1:24 pm }

Hmmm, Interesting question, it triggered a flash back here, well I would argue that PS – headed by the early releases of MS Windows , and the Windows 3.11 version to be specific, do you remember how it looked 🙂 ?! – tackled the issue of language/regional context before OSS. Actually it’s the Windows operating system which set the standard of “software localization” (i.e the technical translating from English to Arabic in our case), and we came to know the Microsoft Technical Glossary that other companies started to use for the software interface language. Now, when I look at the “Arabic” version of Moodle and because it has been developed by the “community”, I find serious faults in “user interface language”.
So I guess , yes PS wins here.

6 Ammar Al-Attiyat { 10.27.09 at 1:48 pm }

Thank you.
You’re right, and it’s interesting how those vendors are collaborating together to integrate their OSS applications to add a value, one interesting link I visted today is this one;


7 Ammar Al-Attiyat { 10.27.09 at 2:12 pm }

and for the OSS geeks and innovators out there, here’s something interesting;


8 jennie wong { 10.30.09 at 6:18 am }


Thanks for the link – very interesting. There is much to be said about OSS and innovators – are we really geeks or are we at the front of the line when it comes to knowledge in this area.


9 Ammar Al-Attiyat { 11.01.09 at 12:58 pm }


Definitely you’re at the front of the line. Actually, you reminded me with a keynote speech I attended for Tim O’Reilly (man who coined Web 2.0) , it was exactly a year ago at the eLearning Guild conference at San Jose …. I remember one key point O’Reilly talked about that we should follow the “geeks” on whatever they’re doing .. that’s if we wish to know the next killer apps … !!!

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