The Codebreakers – A BBC World Documentary on FOSS & Development


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A two-part documentary, The Codebreakers was aired on BBC World TV during May 2006. It investigates how poor countries are using FOSS applications for development, and includes stories and interviews from around the world. A 40-minute version of The Codebreakers is now available for free download online.

The famous digital divide is getting wider. A two-part documentary, The Codebreakers aired on BBC World starting 10 May 2006 examines whether free/open source software (FOSS) might be the bridge?

FOSS contains 'source code' that can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction. It has been around for over 20 years but most PC owners are not aware that the Internet search engines and many computer applications run on FOSS.

"It's not that FOSS has had a bad press, it has had no press because there is no company that 'owns' it," says executive producer Robert Lamb. "But we found that in the computer industry and among the afficionados, it is well known and its virtues well understood."

The crew of the independent producers who made the film went to nearly a dozen countries around the world to see how the adoption of FOSS presents opportunities for industry and capacity development, software piracy reduction, and localization and customization for diverse cultural and development needs.

Stories from The Codebreakers include computer and Internet access for school children in Africa, reaching the poor in Brazil, tortoise breeding programmes in the Galapagos, connecting villages in Spain, and disaster management in Sri Lanka. The documentary also includes interviews from key figures around the world.

Intel, IBM, Sun and Microsoft all seem to agree that FOSS is a welcome presence in computer software. According to Jonathan Murray of Microsoft "The Open Source community stimulates innovation in software, it's something that frankly we feel very good about and it's something that we absolutely see as being a partnership with Microsoft."