Introduction

Just where do sustainable development principles fit in the higher education IT sector and can they be applied to open source computing? There appears to be 3 areas where the case for open source can be considered and there maybe more, these are technical, academic and support.

Definitions

There are many different definitions of sustainable development. For argument's sake I am using the following Bruntland (1987) definition from the United Nations which is also the preferred definition by my institution:

{{{Development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. (Bruntland Report)}}}

Technical/ Systems

Once you've taken into account the cost of security, licensing, hardware and support demands of commercial systems is there really a case left for them to be considered as reliable or stable as their community led open source counterparts? Looking at it from this point of view the Apache web server platform would appear to be a good example of this.

ICT development made easier for some with FLOSS

The OpenCD project in collaboration with the UK Department for International Development has distributed 55,000 custom versions of their OpenCD with the free magazine Developments. The magazine also features an article called ‘Free to Share’ which draws comparisons between FLOSS (free, libre, open source software) and its commercial counterparts. There are examples of the FLOSS approach being adopted in Brazilian, Namibian and Spanish schools and the article ends with some possible implications for international and educational development.

The OpenCD consists of open source software that is compatible with Microsoft Windows PCs and available for free from the OpenCD project website. The magazine Developments is produced by the UK Department for International Development and distributed to embassies and charities globally. It is also available online http://www.developments.org.uk

Academic/ Applications

Then there's the possibility of using open source academically like web based content management systems such as the virtual learning environment Moodle or the forum software PHP Bulletin Board or even Wikis like this. Add to that the current fascination with educational implications of Blogging, Pod Casting, (insert the next technology here) and the list literally goes on. I have recently been impressed with the simplest fundamental change like moving from Internet Explorer to Firefox and noticed how it has improved my information searching, management and overall productivity.

Laptop for every kid will create 1/2 billion programmers

http://laptop.media.mit.edu/images/tn-laptop-crank.jpg More kids laptop images http://laptop.media.mit.edu/

Nicholas Negroponte (founder of Wired magazine and MIT Media lab) is suggesting the $100 laptop will create 1/2 billion open source programmers by shipping it with development tools. The price means developing countries who would not normally have considered making computing available on such a large scale are now seriously considering it. The accessible price is largely due to the inclusion of 'free' open source software and advances in hardware. Negroponte was demonstrating a working prototype of the laptop at the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS 16-18 November 2005). Read the full interview here: http://www.wired.com/news/technology/0,1282,69615,00.html?tw=rss.CUL

Microsoft’s presence at the summit showcased the Namibian pathfinder project which used refurbished computers and ICT trained teachers to tackle the issues faced in using computers in education in Africa. See the Microsoft press office for WSIS here for full story and video. http://www.microsoft.com/emea/presscentre/presscentresite/wsis/default.mspx

Support/ Standards

Standards are another area where I see open source out competing proprietary or commercial formats. The aforementioned pod casting is based on the phenomenal success of the mp3 for delivering audio but this is just one segment of the content arena. There are also many other formats and standards to aid with education as we move further towards more e-learning including things like interoperability (Learning Design, Question Test Interoperability) and accessibility.

WEEE - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment

If you are looking to get rid of you old computing equipment please consider it’s re-use before disposing of it responsibly. The recent European legislation on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment should be able to advise you on this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WEEE

UK WEEE Legislation set-back

Draft implementation plans for the UK WEEE legislation have been set-back to spring 2006. UK energy minister Malcolm Wicks said “We have listened to the concerns expressed by both the business community and other stakeholders over the implementation process and have decided that more time is needed to get the implementation right,”.

The UK is not the only EU country behind implementing the far reaching WEEE and RoHS (Restriction of the Use of Hazardous Substances) directives both of which were due in August 2004.

http://www.out-law.com/default.aspx?page=6466

The WEEE Man

http://www.weeeman.org/images/content/gallery_thumb.jpg The WEEE man is made up of the average amount of electrical waste the a UK citizen produces in their lifetime. The WEEE man web site gives access to learning materials and a host of other WEEE resources including where to see this giant 7 meter, 3 tonne junk sculpture. http://www.weeeman.org/

References

The OpenCD http://www.theopencd.org/

Computer Aid International (computer re-use in developing countries) http://www.computer-aid.org/

December 2005 Embedding Sustainable Development into the Curriculum conference, York. Higher Education Academy; Information and Computer Sciences http://www.ics.heacademy.ac.uk/Events/sustainability05/

November 2005 Developments, Free to Share by Bill Thompson. UK Department for International Development

http://www.developments.org.uk/data/issue31/free-to-share.htm

November 2005 World Summit on Information Society WSIS, Tunis. http://www.itu.int/wsis/

July 2005 Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Report on Sustainable development in higher education http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2005/05_28/

1987 The Bruntland Report, World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) Our Common Future; OUP http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/

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