OpenSource and OpenAccess catching on

Open source is a process of collective creation of knowhow. In open source software, the underlying source code is free and accessible to all and can be customized to fit anyone’s needs. Open source communities pride themselves on collaboration and shared mutual effort in maturing the technology. Open access on the other hand is anything produced digitally, accessible online for anyone free of charge. There are varying degrees of licenses and copyrights that govern both. The underlying principles of both vibe well with the open research and synchronized cooperation principles of educational institutions and Government agencies which are the foundation of our communities. Therefore it is not surprising that they tend to fare well in that set-up. A couple of days ago I posted about Toronto Hydro’s smart meter program getting fired up by Red Hat’s Linux, again open source albeit enterprise version.

Ingres, a provider of open source database Management software is sponsoring a program between three universities in Canada and the United States to offer course credit to seven students that are participating in a semester long project working on its Ingres Database as an initiative to promote Opensource among students. Universities participating in the project are The University of Toronto, Michigan State University, and The University of the Virgin Islands. Students are working with Ingres on a project to create an easy-to-use interface for managing Geospatial Data. The project would focus on testing a Drupal plug-in for Open Layers and fixing bugs using Ingres, providing SQL standards and support for geospatial data types and functions. The Geospatial Information System industry is over $4B in size and is being more and more integrated into mainstream technology through everyday gadgets like Google Maps and GPS .This is a great opportunity for students to learn about open source software , to work with professional teams and who knows maybe even launch themselves a very successful career .

“The geospatial project offers students the opportunity to work on real code that other people will use and gives the students a sense of pride outside of their schoolwork,” said Greg Wilson, assistant professor of computer science, University of Toronto. He further said that open source also gives the students access to a vast network of developers for assistance, so they come out of the program much better trained and with a sense of being part of the broader community of programmers.

Actually University of Toronto already has a project in place called Open Source|Open Access intended to develop a community of scholars, students and others interested in of open source and open access which was started in November 2004 .( To participate in the project, visit http://open.utoronto.ca/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1)

More along the lines of  open access , UC Berkeley, California is working with Canada’s University of Saskatchewan, ETH Zürich in Switzerland, the University of Osnabrück in Germany and Cambridge University in the United Kingdom to set up an open source software project that would provide common access to video and audio recordings of lectures and other events on these campus. Cal says until now universities have been “stymied by high technical barriers and costs” even when they have wanted to distribute such content. The software will be aimed at popular services like YouTube and iTunes.

Today, The City of Toronto has made its municipal data open to the public. In early November, Toronto major David Miller launched toronto.ca/open, the city’s official data set catalogue which provides info ranging from apartment inspection data to child care data availability to dozens of GIS mapping data. Miller had also announced his plans to create “a library of open data in machine readable formats” which will share the Toronto Transit Commission’s (TTC) schedule data and explore ways to open the city’s data to everyone. The idea is that the public can download, analyze and modify the city’s data, even create software applications for it to render it more useful or to find new ways to use them.

“This is an exciting change for Toronto. We are making our most valuable asset, the information and knowledge generated on behalf of the public, available to everyone who wants it,” he said.