Expert Group Meeting on Open Source Software Solutions
for the Public Sector in the Arab Region

Nile Hilton Hotel Cairo, Egypt‎, 19-21 December 2006‎

Meetings Details

Information Note


List of Participants


List of Documents


Visa Info

Final Report (En)

Final Report (An)



1. Introduction

The recently concluded process of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) addressed the ‎growing opportunity for the public sector to leverage the ability of free and open source software (FOSS) to ‎provide solutions for common information and communication technology (ICT) problems. In the past two ‎years, a growing number of municipalities and governments around the world have begun making public ‎commitments towards the implementation of open source software solutions in their information technology ‎infrastructures, especially for e-government, e-learning and e-health applications. Many opportunities exist for ‎the Arab region to benefit from this trend, such as reducing costs, supporting the development of software at a ‎national level, adapting open source software to the local needs and creating jobs in the ICT sector. On the other ‎hand, the adoption of FOSS in the public sector requires strategic planning at the national and regional levels, ‎building ICT skills and capacities, and the establishment of partnerships between the private and public sectors. ‎In order to optimally do so, it is essential to learn from the experiences in other regions, countries or institutions, ‎in adopting and utilizing this software modality.

2. Objectives

This meeting will help organizations streamline the process of implementing FOSS solutions, in ‎accordance with the goals of the WSIS. It will allow experts and decision makers in the region to exchange the ‎information they need to meet the challenges of adopting FOSS at the national level, and the good practices for ‎its deployment at the sector and/or institutional levels. ‎

This meeting will bring experts and policy makers who have undertaken (or are in the process of ‎undertaking) the implementation of FOSS solutions, together with regional stakeholders contemplating such ‎initiatives. The participants will share experiences in the implementation of open source software products in ‎their public sector enterprises. Relevant experiences from developed and developing countries will be analyzed ‎for transferable lessons learned. The governmental and higher education sectors will be of particular focus and ‎specific software solutions and deployment methodologies will be reviewed for these sectors.‎

The meeting aims also at promoting bilateral, regional and international collaborative efforts for the use ‎of FOSS applications, adoption of open standards, and localization of FOSS solutions; and it will also explore ‎state-of-the-art specific software solutions. By the end of the meeting, participants should provide a common ‎understanding of the benefits and returns on investment offered by open source software solutions in the Arab ‎region. Experts would also agree on strategic approaches, methodologies and modalities to introduce or expand ‎FOSS in the public sector that are adapted to the needs of the region.

3. Topics

The expert group meeting will mainly cover the following topics: ‎

‎(a)‎ Challenges for using FOSS at the institutional or national level in developing countries. Comparisons ‎between the adoption of FOSS and that of proprietary solutions will be carried out, while focusing on ‎analyzing and evaluating the differences, to enable an assessment of the costs and benefits of adopting ‎either solution. Pre-requisites for adopting FOSS solutions at the national and institutional levels will be ‎discussed, while highlighting the various benefits in the short and long terms.‎

‎(b)‎ Experiences and success stories related to the adoption of FOSS by developed and developing countries. ‎Many countries, such as Brazil, Germany, Bahrain and Tunisia, have experiences in the use of FOSS at ‎the national level. Other experiences from the Asia Pacific region are also of great significance for the ‎Arab countries. Some experiences and success stories will be reviewed and analyzed during the meeting ‎to conclude the lessons learned segment.‎

‎(c)‎ FOSS solutions for government and higher education sectors. The adoption of FOSS in the government ‎and educational sectors is of great importance in the Arab region. This is attributed to the high ‎expenditure of governments in the region for the introduction and use of ICTs in these sectors. Specific ‎software solutions and deployment will be addressed for the e-government and education sectors.‎

‎(d)‎ Strategic approaches for the adoption of FOSS. This topic includes outlining the core processes in ‎adopting FOSS and focuses on the methodologies and modalities that can be followed to ensure the ‎effective implementation of FOSS solutions.‎

‎(e)‎ Regional needs for the deployment of FOSS solutions nation-wide and regionally. This segment will ‎focus on the needs for adopting open standards, localization processes, building capacity in FOSS, and ‎the importance of regional cooperation for the Arabization of FOSS.

4. Outcomes

The major output of the meeting will be the development of strategic approaches, methodologies and ‎modalities for the adoption and development of FOSS solutions for the public sector. It will identify the major ‎challenges facing the deployment of FOSS solutions and suggest strategic directives to overcome these ‎obstacles, while identifying the actions needed for facilitating the use of FOSS in the Arab region..

5. Organization

The meeting is jointly organized by the ICT Division of the Economic and Social Commission for ‎Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Information and Communication Technology for Development in the Arab ‎Region (ICTDAR) a regional programme of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in ‎collaboration with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); and it will ‎be held at the Nile Hilton Hotel in Cairo, Egypt, during 19-21 December 2006. ‎

The meeting will include a number of presentations and case studies from selected developed and ‎developing countries. Contributions from regional and international organizations that have carried out FOSS ‎projects will enrich the meeting, namely those from the Asia Pacific Development Information Programme ‎‎(APDIP) and the UNESCO. The final session of the meeting will be dedicated to recommendations and follow-‎up mechanisms.

6. Participants & Registration

Target groups for the meeting will mainly include decision-makers from the public sector, experts from ‎academia and private sector, non-governmental organizations and groups working in FOSS. Representatives ‎from ICT related ministries and ICT entrepreneurs using FOSS are also welcomed to participate in this meeting. ‎

Pre-registration for the meeting can be performed by filling and returning the registration form by email ‎to or, with a cc to

7. Language

Arabic, English and French are the working languages of the meeting, and simultaneous translation from ‎Arabic to English/French and vice-versa will be provided during the meeting sessions.‎

8. Additional Information‎

The Web page provides the latest ‎information on the meeting. Submissions, inquiries and requests for additional information should be addressed to:

Mr. Mansour Farah
Senior Information Technology Officer and Team leader
ICT Division, ESCWA
Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: 961-1-978538
Fax: 961-1-981510

Mr. Ziad Haddara
Senior Programme Officer
ICT for Development in the Arab Region (ICTDAR), UNDP‎
Cairo, Egypt
Tel: +20-25799957
Fax: +20-25784847
Inquiries regarding logistics, including travel, accommodation, should be directed to:

Ms. Zahr Bou Ghanem
Research Assistant
ICT Division, ESCWA
Beirut, Lebanon
Tel: 961-1-978544
Fax: 961-1-981510




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