A country-by-country survey of the state of Free Software in Asia is difficult, not least because
of the disparate natures of Asian societies, the wide use of languages other than English, and the lack of international reporting on technical issues. However, we'll begin looking this week at recent initiatives in two countries, Korea and Japan, and follow up in the future with views from other regions.
Korean computer science professor Jin Hyung Kim serves in several Korean organizations and committees related to FLOSS. He is chairman of Free and Open
Source Movement, a member of Open Source Forum, and a vice chair of Korea Linux
Association. Kim says, "It is very timely to organize an Asian forum to promote Open Source. We are also
seeking international collaborations, particulary with Asian friends."
In Korea, according to Kim, there are several forum and associations
promoting FLOSS activities, and working together to foster FLOSS practice.
"Some government supported research institutes studied the potential
advantages of Open Source. We are holding many seminars and meetings
annually. For the last three years, we have runned a voluntary training
program teaching Linux to high school teachers.
Most of our activities are local, except some congress and
conference participations. Documents are written in Korean," he says.
Asians are contributing to GNU/Linux in an
Meanwhile, across the Sea of Japan (if you're Japanese) or the East Sea (if you're Korean) several groups are springing up to promote FLOSS.
On July 10, 2002, a non-profit group chaired by Prof. Masayuki Ida formed the "Free Software Initiative Japan" (FSIJ) under the Tokyo Metropolitan Government to "support developers and users of free software, advocate the principle of free software, organize international symposium, and facilitate the release of
high quality free software from Japan to the rest of the world." The FSIJ organized
Free Software Symposium 2002 in Tokyo on October 22 and 23, the first event of its kind in Asia, with speakers invited from China, Thailand, Japan, Singapore, Germany, Italy and the USA.
Besides the more technical presentations, there were
speeches about the larger issues of Free Software. Also discussed were issues of better
cooperation for internationalization of programs and documentation as well
as the possibility of a solution-oriented database for Free Software. Some
of the ideas that arose at the conference now continue to be pursued by mail. A follow-up
event is being planned for this year in Thailand.
Niibe Yutaka, who works for the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, says, "There are many domestic Linux users groups (I think more than 20). The central one is Japan Linux Association."
In addition, Japan's non-profit Centre of the International Cooperation for Computerization plans for CICC to hold a symposium in Thailand on Open Source Software in partnership with Thailand's National Electronics and Computer Technology Center (NECTEC).