FOMCA's project to encourage PC vendors to distribute a usable free operating system

19 Explaining about free softwareThis project aimed to encourage the distribution of Ubuntu Linux instead of FreeDOS on new low-cost computers in order to provide consumers with free and open source software and thereby also reduce piracy. Many low cost computers that do not include Microsoft Windows are instead distributed with an operating system that is called FreeDOS which is free clone of the 30+ year old pre-Windows operating system, MSDOS.

Normally a consumer who buys a computer with such a system will delete the FreeDOS and installs a pirated copy of Windows to the computer, being oblivious of any free, legal alternative. Since open source softwares are a good free alternative, was proposed that a campaign should be done to educate the consumers to move from FreeDOS to Linux which is an open source operating system which is modern and fully featured and can be used instead of Windows. By doing so, the consumer is not at a disadvantage when trying to use the computer and also helps in reducing piracy which is the usual solution for most. Since the Malaysian government also supports open source software, FOMCA also looked at collaborating with the local open source community members to promote the use of free and open source software among Malaysian consumers.

Objectives:

  • Overall objective: Increase the uptake of free, legal software for Malaysian consumers
  • Specific objective: Create awareness among Malaysian suppliers and consumers to, encourage the use of open source software an example which is the promotion of the inclusion of Ubuntu Linux with new pcs instead of FreeDOS to provide a better computing experience and also reduce piracy

Activities:

  1. Conduct an awareness seminar/workshop on the software piracy issue and access to knowledge. In this session, we can introduce the Ubuntu Linux operating system and how vendors and consumers can play a role in fostering the uptake of open source software and thereby reducing piracy.
  2. Promoting this campaign in our existing consumer websites under FOMCA.

Awareness Session on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and UBUNTU LINUX
10th February 2012
Institute of Marketing Malaysia

It is important to understand what Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is and how Ubuntu Linux can help consumers. We at FOMCA wanted to understand the issue better so we took to the field to talk to consumers. To begin with, FOMCA had several discussions with the relevant stakeholders and volunteers to frame a basic understanding of this issue. The first presentation session was held in Institute of Marketing Malaysia (IMM) for the general public and FOMCA staffs with Mr Firdaus Aziz, Director from AbadiIT as a guest speaker. He provided a very basic introduction to FOSS , the evolution and development of FOSS. The second part of the presentation was an introduction to UBUNTU Linux and how it can function as a Free Operating System and the benefits to consumers.

Discussion with Policy Makers and Regulators in Promoting Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and Ubuntu Linux In Malaysia
10th March 2012
MAMPU Office, Cyberjaya

20 Meeting at CyberjayaAs part of the promotion of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) and Ubuntu Linux, FOMCA has organized a meeting with the policy makers and regulators in Malaysia to discuss and pursue possible ways to promote FOSS, especially Ubuntu to Malaysian consumers. It is clear to FOMCA that support from regulators and policy makers is integral in creating a higher impact and increased interest among consumers as well as vendors in the long term. The meeting was held on 10th March 2012, 10.00am at the MAMPU office in Cyberjaya.

The government agencies that were present during the discussion were:

a) The Open Source Competency Center (OSCC); which is under Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU). In Malaysia, the OSS Initiative is a cabinet decision. MAMPU was directed to study the feasibility of implementing OSS in Malaysian Government Agencies.

Objectives of OSS Implementation

  • Reduce total cost of ownership
  • Increase freedom of choice of software usage
  • Increase interoperability among systems
  • Increase growth of ICT industry
  • Increase growth of OSS industry
  • Increase growth of OSS user and developer community
  • Reduce digital divide

b) Ministry of Domestic Trade Cooperatives and Consumerism (MTDCC). MDTCC formulates policies, strategies and reviews matters related to the development of domestic trade and consumerism.

Part of the Scope of Work of the Ministry is:

Domestic Trade

  • Develops and administers the intellectual property protection system.

Consumerism

  • Carry out consumer education programmes;
  • Enhance programmes on consumer awareness and consumer protection; and
  • Encourage and assist consumer movements.

Both FOMCA’s project officer and Consumers International Senior Policy & Project Officer explained the project to the government agency representatives and below are some of the recommendations made by FOMCA:

Encourage all the vendors to comply with best practice for new pcs:

  1. If a PC is not sold with Windows, an equivalent open source option should be provided
  2. Restrict monopoly of OS providers from anti-competitive restrictions on vendors
  3. Promote consumer education via FOMCA

FOMCA highlighted a key issue that could be a setback in encouraging consumers to switch to using Ubuntu Linux, namely the lack of technical support services. Normally if a consumer has a problem with their computer, most of the time they prefer to take it in to the service center physically to get it repaired which in the case of Ubuntu is not possible due to a lack of formal support services locally. This is a definite discouraging factor for local consumers when considering using Ubuntu on their computers. To help address this, FOMCA explored the possibility of MAMPU providing such support service in terms of at least having a website where consumers can seek help, and to possibly have support centers in selected malls such as Digital Mall in Petaling Jaya and Low Yatt Mall in KL, Malaysia which is famous for selling both gadgets and computer equipment.

MAMPU responded that at the moment this would be a little difficult to initiate due to a lack of funding and human resource. They also explained that at the moment, MAMPU is mainly concentrating on OSS issues that relate to government agencies and not consumers directly. Thus there is a need for further deliberation and discussions at a higher decision-making level.

MTDCC explained that to bringing these changes and influencing policy level is not feasible in a short period of time. What is needed as a start, are promotional activities like outreach programmes to the public to provide awareness on what OSS is, in the first place before creating a demand from the consumers. At the moment, under the MTDCC they have a programme that is called “ GerakGempurCetakRompak” that is aimed in reducing piracy of which Microsoft is aware of as well. FOMCA clarified that the aim here is not directly reducing piracy, but to provide consumers an alternative choice of software they may not be aware off such as Ubuntu. To create awareness as suggested by MAMPU and MTDCC, the consumer organization needs funding support with the appropriate authority being both MAMPU and the MTDCC due to FOMCA’s membership of Consumers International and per its policy, is unable to accept corporate funding for its initiatives. MTDCC further reiterated that as a first step, this programme must be targeted only at consumer awareness and promotion and not attempt to address policy level changes yet. To date, the MTDCC does not have the expertise to talk in detail about UBUNTU or other FOSS but as recommended by FOMCA, they can include a statement, brochure or flyer, in some of their outreach programmes to inform the public about alternative OSS such as UBUNTU.

FOMCA’s Proposals to MAMPU and MTDCC:

  • Collaborate with FOMCA to promote FOSS among Malaysian Consumers and vendors
  • Propose that MAMPU and MTDCC provide/source funding to conduct bigger levels of outreach sessions throughout Malaysia to promote FOSS and Ubuntu.

FOMCA is the primary consumer organization in Malaysia and has an excellent track record of public outreach, educating a total of 3 million consumers a year. From the discussions, it was concluded that as a first step, basic awareness should be created among consumers about FOSS. Sufficient awareness can act as an instigator to create a demand from consumers for FOSS and subsequently influence a call for policy changes. Therefore, FOMCA will initially continue with the awareness sessions planned via the funding provided by Consumers International. It is our hope consequently, to obtain recognition and support from the government to continue this effort in the coming years with this pilot project serving as a benchmark.

Booth Exhibition in Digital Mall, Petaling Jaya
16th June 2012

21 Exhibition PC and brochuresAs part of the promotion activity, FOMCA planned a booth exhibition in one of the local shopping malls that is known to bea hub for the sale of IT devices, peripherals and software. The venue was chose to enable the project officer and volunteers to interact with a wide age group of the general public from diverse backgrounds that were all congregated with an IT purchase in mind.A display board that covered of basic information about FOSS and Ubuntu Linux was set-up for customers to view.. There was also a display on some important case studies and statistics related to consumers on the benefits of using Ubuntu and the growing demand for FOSS and Ubuntu Linux. These articles were obtained from news alerts, blogs, mainstream newspapers and other articles written by interested parties who also have the same objectives.

During the exhibition, FOMCA prepared 2 laptops and 2 desktops that both ran on Ubuntu Linux. These laptops were displayed for the consumers in this case the general public to try the applications and get a feel for using the FOSS. Some of the participants were also able to make comparisons with commercial software to see how they could benefit by shifting to FOSS such as Ubuntu.

Parents were also interested in the usage of another version of Ubuntu which is known as EduBuntu to be used by young children for educational purposes.

The booth exhibition was also utilised to gather information from consumers regarding their understanding, awareness, and feedback about FOSS and Ubuntu Linux. FOMCA staff approached the consumers by providing a brochure about the campaign which also explained and provided information on FOSS and Ubuntu Linux as well as other FOSS options that are available for them to consider. The further staff explained the objectives of this campaign as well as educated the public about their basic consumer rights which is the RIGHT TO CHOOSE and RIGHT TO INFORMATION in this case, the right to choose other software that they are not aware of. This was followed-up with a a simple questionnaire which the public who visited the booth were required to fill up.

For participants who visited the booth, FOMCA also provided a free CD that contained the Ubuntu software in order for them to try it out at home or install it to their computer. Some of the CD’s were prepared by FOMCA and a large amount of the CDs that contained the latest UBUNTU 12.04 version were provided by Ubuntu Malaysia, who also volunteered to be at booth to assist FOMCA.

Awareness Session & Talk on Ubuntu Linux
Putra Intelek College
Puchong
19th July 2012

FOMCA’s target group for this campaign was primarily tertiary level students. This is because, original commercial software in the market can be sold at an astronomical rate which may be a burden to students who are not able to afford exorbitant prices but need the software to enable their course of study . Due to this, many students may opt for something cheaper which in most cases is the use of a pirated copy of the software. In order to prevent this, FOMCA wanted to provide awareness to the students that they do have an alternate which is FOSS such as Ubuntu Linux that is legal and at the same is free to be shared.

The programme was planned in such way that there will be an introduction to 8 universal consumer rights followed by FOSS and Ubuntu. In order to evaluate the understanding and awareness of the students, FOMCA decided to conduct a pre and post survey. The pre questionnaire was provided to the students before the talk was started and followed by a post questionnaire that had questions related to the talk and the campaign.

Similar to the public programme, FOMCA also opened a mini booth for the college students with the display board, a set of a desktop and a laptop that were running Ubuntu Linux. Once we completed the talk, students we invited to visit the booth and the display to try out the Ubuntu software. Some of the students decided to install the Ubuntu software on the spot with the help of FOMCA staffs.

For the full survey results from this work, download the PDF report below.

AttachmentSize
FOMCA's final report with statistics1.25 MB

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