South African TV show evangelises open source

A South African organisation has produced what it claims is the first television series dedicated to promoting open-source software

The first in a 13-part series of television shows to promote open-source software was broadcast in South Africa on Saturday.

The television show, called Go_Open, has been produced with the help of the Shuttleworth Foundation, which promotes the use of open-source software in South African schools. The programme featured success stories, interviews with local and international open-source pioneers and news from the open-source world.

Thomas Black, a programme manager at the Shuttleworth Foundation who helped plan the programme, said the show is aimed at non-technical end users who may not have heard of open-source software before.

"It's really aimed at non-technical people -- we're not trying to preach to the converted," said Black. "We're trying to speak to the end user, particularly younger users, and to encourage them to try open-source software and to get involved in the open-source community."

The first episode of the show included an interview with Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, and Robin Rowe, the founding partner of MovieEditor, which provides advice to Hollywood Studios on how to maximise their use of Linux in special effects and animation. It also included a feature on Pick and Pay, one of the largest retailers in South African, which runs Linux on the majority of its infrastructure and is starting to switch its till points to Linux.

Black said that the show has already experienced an encouraging response, with more than 1,000 people entering the show competition within one hour of the show finishing, and high volumes of Web traffic on the site accompanying the show.

As for future shows, Black said it has a number of open-source luminaries lined up, including Bruce Perens and Eric Raymond, the co-founders of the Open Source Initiative, which promotes Linux and open-source software to businesses. It is also hoping to get Linux creator Linus Torvalds to speak on the show, but this has not been confirmed yet, said Black.

The television show has not been cheap to produce, with the sponsors paying for the airtime on the channel and the production of the show. Black said that production costs were five million South African rand (about £450,000).

The show is sponsored by the Shuttleworth Foundation, Hewlett-Packard South Africa, African research institution CSIR and Canonical, the open-source company that sponsors the Ubuntu Linux distribution.

Go_Open will be broadcast on the South African television channel SABC 2 every Saturday at 5:30 p.m., but will soon be available for viewing on the Web site accompanying the series.

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