November 12, 2009, 6:48 am
An experiment in Nicaragua shows just how powerful Open Source software can be in leveling the playing field. The second poorest country of the Americas now has one of the best software solutions for displaying agricultural data in the western hemisphere.
It all started about a year ago. I was in Nicaragua doing anthropological research, when I was asked to give a talk at the yearly Debian Day in the capital city of Managua. I spoke on Latex, which really had nothing to do with agriculture, but afterward Denis C√°ceres of Debian Nicaragua approached me. He had just begun working with a Nicaraguan NGO called SIMAS (Mesoamerican Information Service about Sustainable Agriculture, www.simas.org.ni) where he and others were in the process of starting a project to develop an information system for the regional offices of the Ministry of Agriculture, supported by the Spanish and Swedish cooperation agencies.