SOFTWARE  THE OPEN SOURCE PROJECT
What is opensource software?Opensource software,simply put,is software or
programming code where the source code of the program is available
for anyone
to view,use,share,modify or copy under very few conditions and usually at little
or no cost to the individual user.
Propriety software on the other hand,is programming code or software  which
is released for use to the "purchaser" under strict conditions.Firstly one needs to
"purchase" the software to use it.The software does not belong to the" purchaser
Purchase of the software allows the "purchaser" the use of the software under the
conditions laid out by the "seller".
In addition,propriety software is software which is tested  and guaranteed to work
under certain conditions and with a combination of certain hardware.It works very
well under those conditions but comes at a price and may not be copied,modified,
shared or reverse engineered.
Opensource software is usually free,can be copied,shared and modified and for us
at SPARKS the electronics and technology magazine,means we can make such software
available for learning and teaching purposes with absolutely no restrictions.
          To us thats a great advantage and presents a few interesting possibilities.
          Most opensource software we have encountered is licensed under the
           CREATIVE COMMONS  or GNU .
The UBUNTU/EDUBUNTU PROJECT is one we very excited about.Since we
ourselves dont have any experience with it,we going to dive in and" LEARN AND TEACH"
it at the same time.So prepare for a bumpy ride but we assure you it will be
worth the bumps and potholes.

The Open CD project, which includes the openoffice suite of software .The
wordprocessor,spreadsheet,presentation,webeditor etc.will be split up and we
hope to give you as much info as we possibly can so that we can get a working
knowledge of the suite and perhaps even reach a level of proficiency we can
all be proud of.

Opensource software offers a lot more than what has been mentioned.There is code
out there written for just about anything one can think of.That excites me as a layman.
If we facilitate a forum for programmers what goals would we set?
On a recent visit to the local state hospital,3 areas were crowded,congested and hopelessly
disorganised,casualty,admissisions and the dispensary.Problems at casualty are expected
and understandable.Since the hospital authorities are unable or unwilling to rectify the
situation,what can we as civil society or more specifically 'hackers' and 'technos' do using technology to solve a' realworld ',problem? Herein lies the challenge.With the level of
sophistication that technology has reached,why should anyone have to spend hours filling in
forms,wait to have a file pulled or created,history checked when all of that could be achieved
using the technology at our disposal in a few minutes?Using technology,there should be
shorter ques,no congestion,minimal fraud and missing medicines and perhaps smiling nurses.
Love the uniforms,especially the different coloured lapels which mean grumpy,grumpier
and grumpiest.
This is a challenge to the advocates of 'opensource software'.Here, is a noble 'struggle'
and an opportunity to prove why opensource and linux is for humanbeings.All we ask of
you if you take up this challenge is that as your project progresses you teach us all the
different aspects of programming,so that learners get a first hand experience of what
opensource software development is about,In return we offer to share some of our web
space for the project and will feature the project in our magazine from conception so
that all learners can benefit from your experience and knowledge and hope that one day
every state hospital in South Africa and beyound will run your software.

                                        LEARNER EXERCISE
While we wait for the 'hackers ' and the 'technos' to join the project,we would like to
hear from you the learners as to how  you think a hospital software package should work
and what it should offer.,I have a few thoughts and questions.Should the database be
provincial or national? Who goes on to the database?At which point does a person get
on to the database?What info is required?What about peoples privacy?Where does the
info come from?What about people who dont use state healthcare facilities?Who is to
have access to the info?What if a person visits a private doctor?Would the doctor have
access to state health files?Will the state hospital have access to private doctors records?
In an emergency who has access to whose records?

How should the check-in process work?What is the source of the infomation?Is the I.D.
book enough?What about a photo or fingerprint scan?Will that  minimize fraud at
the dispensary?Can the hospital computer system integrate the security and access
control and time keeping systems? .Whats about goods receiving and dispatch at the
hospital store? 
What about stock control at the hospital store and dispensary?How should community
clinics integrate into the system?Will a health worker at a community clinic be able to
view and update patient records,or check the availability of a specific medication in the
hospital dispensary?Will provincial and national goverment be able to monitor stock
movements in and out of clinics and hospitals?With doctors in such short supply,will
remote diagnosis not become a realty?

The use of technology wisely can make possible many things we thought impossible for
our overburdened and fragile healthcare system,what is needed from you the learners
of our country is to embrace technology wholeheartedly,become the masters of it and
make it do what our country ,our people and ,Africa requires.

As usual we urge you to DO  'educate,facilitate and empower'
                                   DO  'learn and teach'