Free/Open Source Software (FOSS) is a recent phenomenon that has the potential to revolutionize the software industry. It has already gained a strong foothold in the server software segment, with a leading market share worldwide in some software categories. It is also gaining ground in desktop applications and it has been predicted that its use on the desktop will become significant in the near future.

Interest in FOSS is growing globally, particularly in developing countries. Governments are considering policies to promote its use, businesses are recognizing its potential and various other sectors are giving increasing attention to the opportunity for localization that it presents.

The impact of FOSS will be felt in many areas. In this primer we focus on FOSS in education and the role it can play in schools, colleges and universities.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have the potential to improve the quality of education. However, educational institutions are often faced with financial constraints. Competing demands for resources and the high costs of ICTs can be a major obstacle to providing ICT facilities in educational institutions. FOSS has the potential to help lower the cost barrier by reducing the cost of software, which is an important component of ICT facilities. Besides the cost benefits, there are numerous other advantages in using FOSS in education, including pedagogical benefits.

This primer is intended to help policy-makers and decision-makers understand the potential use of FOSS in education if where and how it can be used, why it should be used, and what issues are involved. In particular, officials in ministries of education, school and university administrators, academic staff and researchers should find this primer useful.

This primer is part of a series of primers on Free/Open Source Software brought to you by the International Open Source Network (IOSN), an initiative of the UNDP's Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme APDIP). We would like to thank all those who have been involved in the creation of this primer. We would also like to thank the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada for their generous financial support without which this primer would not have been written.

Tan Wooi Tang

Kuala Lumpur