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Egypt: The People Demand Free and Open Source Software

A lot has been said about the liberating role technology has played in the Middle East uprising, yet there is more to be said about the mutual role the uprising is yet to play in liberating technology in the region.

This Wednesday, the official Facebook of the Egyptian prime minister published a summary of one of his recent meetings. In it, the government agreed to spending $43.8 million to acquire licenses and software products from Microsoft. Many Egyptian citizens started to express their anger after reading the news.

@rrcoalition: الحكومة تشترى سوفت وير من مايكروسوفت ب 44 مليون دولار, ويقولوا الدولة على وشك الافلاس

>@rrcoalition: The government pays $44 million in software from Microsoft, while they claim the state is about to become bankrupt.

@Aya_Ayman: Yes, because the government fed and sheltered all the poor and homeless in Egypt and have a few extra millions left!

Nevertheless, the people were not angry because of the huge amount of money being spent, but were mainly angry because they see better alternatives that may cost less and also help develop the local software development community.

Egypt 43 Million Microsoft

Samar Ali (@SaMoRaAli) shared this banner on Twitter.

@Gue3bara: الحكومة كان ممكن تصرف مليون دولار مصري فقط وتسخر مجموعة من المطورين المصريين يشغلوا اجهزة الحكومة ببرمجيات مفتوحة المصدر

@Gue3bara: Instead of spending this money, the government could have spent just one million on local software developers to develop alternative solutions for the government using open source software.

Omar Ak explained the meaning of Open Source Software briefly:

‏@i3mmoor: Pt – the open source besides being free, it can be modified and does not demand renewal. #OpenEgypt.

Nagla Rizk, who is founding director of the Access to Knowledge for Development Center (A2K4D) and member of the steering committee of the Open Africa Innovation Research Project (Open A.I.R), added on Twitter:

@naglarzk: تعاقد الحكومة المصرية مع مايكروسوفت يزيد من توغل الأخيرة في السوق المصري ويقلص فرص الشركات الصغيرة خاصة القائمة ع المصدر المفتوح #OpenEgypt

@naglarzk: This contract with Microsoft, not only increases its presence in the Egyptian market, but also reduces the chances for small local companies to compete in the market, especially those relying on Open Source Software.

@naglarzk: $43m deal w microsoft is real setback for #Egypt, esp after revolution with promise of openness, collaboration & freedom. #OpenEgypt

Hossam El-Hamalawy (@3arabawy) published more detailed reasons [Ar] why this deal should not be sealed. And many other organizations as well as individuals started to sign this petition [Ar].

Things did not stop here, but members of the Open Source community in Egypt called for a silent demonstration in front of the cabinet of ministers on the 30th of December. Other demonstrations are also being arranged in different parts of Egypt. And the hashtag #OpenEgypt is now being used to introduce people to Open Source Software, and their benefits.

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