This last month has been very busy with new additions to the REALISE market place and discussions around the business case for open source AT illustrated in the two Powerpoint slides made by team member, Peter Cudd. The first looks at the idea of offering some sales, support and services as a way of sustaining a project with some research and development plus consultancy and the second slide shows the option of much more research and consultancy with some support and services, whereas the closed innovation usually depends on large sales and less on support and services.
There are several blogs on the subject for general open source software but rarely articles that relate to Assistive Technology that also discuss matters around the business case other than to say there are an increasing number of people who will need to use assistive technologies in the future.
However, one particular article written by Fernando Botelho (who works with groups in low income areas across the world) makes for an interesting read – “Open Source Software-Based Assistive Technologies“(download PDF) He comments that: “Ease of localization and low cost are the most widely mentioned reasons for choosing open source software solutions but they are not the most important ones. While the viability of localization for languages that are not very profitable would indeed be very difficult to replicate in closed source models, the cost of proprietary solutions can be made irrelevant in the short term through donations or substantial discounts. In this regard two important considerations come to mind: First, donations of proprietary assistive technology software are never made in a large enough volume to actually reach a large portion of the population that needs the technology; and second, governments, foundations, and NGOs need assurance that an investment made in training today will still be relevant in a decade or two and only open source models ensure that.”
One of the issues facing users of open source assistive technology nearer home is training and support for these products and it seems that there really needs to an increased amount of ‘awareness raising’ to fill the gap as an increasing number of open source assistive technologies come to market. We are beginning see these ideas turn to viable projects on the REALISE market place and this will be discussed at the JISC RSC Scotland NE Open Education event in Edinburgh on May 20th, 2011. Download or view the PowerPoint slides on SlideShare – Realise project introduction