S'pore developers create open source buzz

Local developers helping to grow Singapore's interest and expertise in open source technology, with mobile realm particularly hot, say user groups.
Written by Victoria Ho, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Local developers are helping to drum up market buzz to boost interest and expertise in open source technology across the country.

Development in the mobile arena is particularly hot at the moment, among both individuals and software houses, according to Linux user groups in Singapore.

Eugene Teo, honorary member of the Linux Users' Group Singapore (LUGS), said in an interview with ZDNet Asia, that interest among local developers have been moving toward mobile, Web and cloud computing platforms. Companies, too, have been drawn to mobile development, specifically, on Apple's iPhone and Google's Android platforms, Teo said in an e-mail.

Ruiwen Chua, founder of the National University of Singapore's linuxNUS group, said he is seeing a growing number of full-time developers in the island-state. "People are beginning to see the possibilities that they can create on their own by being a developer," Chua said.

And the buzz created by the user group community is helping to nurture developers' skill sets, he said in an e-mail interview.

"Being part of a community of technically-oriented people helps steer new members toward a more technical path," he added.

Chua Zi Yong, who runs CodeAndroid in Singapore, said the group is focused on introducing Google's open source mobile platform to developers. An upcoming user group meeting will introduce concepts of the Android framework to new developers, in addition to bringing in advanced topics such as bluetooth for advanced coders, Chua explained in an e-mail.

Through CodeAndroid, for example, several developers have come together to pool their varied skills and write a games application on Android, he said.

"Real" recognition needed
However, developers need industry validation before they will come onboard in a big way.

Chua noted: "Developer momentum...has to be led by the industry, with real projects, real money, real implementation." He said industry support helped establish the Android platform commercially, which has attracted manufacturers the likes of HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

"What makes most economic sense wins, in terms of cost and marketability," he said.

According to Teo of LUGS, the rise of more specific, technology-focused groups signals growing sophistication among Singapore's developer groups.

"While LUGS was one of the first--and only--Linux user groups in Singapore, today, we see the establishment of [more specialized] Python, PHP, and interoperability groups, to name some, he said.

Enterprise adoption lagging
Despite the bustling developer scene, Singapore's enterprise adoption of open source technology trails behind other countries in the region, such as Indonesia, China, India and Thailand.

Ridhi Sawhney, IDC's Asia-Pacific market analyst for software research, said 7.7 percent of respondents polled in the research firm's recent survey indicated plans to deploy open source storage and security software in their organization. Some 10 percent said they would deploy open source operating systems, and 16.7 percent said they would implement an open source SCM (supply chain management) application.

"However, none of the respondents plan to use new or additional open source ERM (enterprise resource management), CRM (customer relationship management), database management system and middleware software in the next 18 months," Sawhney noted in an e-mail.

Beyond the infrastructure layer, where Linux is "considered secure", there are "very few instances of implementation" higher up at the database, middleware and application layers, the IDC analyst said.

"As far as open source adoption is concerned, one of the chief fears of end-user organizations has to do with the perceived lack of internal and even external skills to support the shift toward the use of an open source strategy," he said.

linuxNUS' Chua noted: "In terms of official support, perhaps Singapore is a little lacking.

"While it seems that many governments around the world have given open source technology their support, we have yet to see that from Singapore in words nor in action, [with the exception of] the Ministry of Defence' use of OpenOffice.org," he said.

This does not offer many opportunities for mainstream users to come in contact with open source technology, he added.

However, pockets of interest groups have risen in the education sector, to explore the use of open source software in their syllabus.

Co-founder of linuxNUS, Luther Goh, pointed to the example of Republic Polytechnic's open source lab, used to teach Python. Final-year students have used the facility to create various projects using Python and Blender, Goh said.

Last year, Red Hat launched a tie-up with several tertiary institutes in Singapore to teach students Linux and open source skill sets.

Chua said: "While there certainly could be more done, the level of activity and support we see in schools today exceeds what they were a few years back."

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