1997-2007 Ten Years of Software Freedom Activities in Belize
The open source movement in Belize got a big jump start in 1997 when the OAS and BTL sponsored a week-long workshop where computer teachers from secondary and tertiary schools all over the country came to Corozal, all expenses paid. Jan Wilson, the lab administrator and computer teacher at CCC/CJC at the time, got permission to have the workshop in the school lab. The organizer and leader of the workshop was Brian Candler, a VSO from England. Chris Aird, of Sacred Heart College was instrumental in helping with the organization. The workshop focused on networking the schools using Linux. The picture above is of the participants of the 1997 workshop.
Click on any of the small photos below for larger images.
Jan Wilson was introduced to Linux at that time, and since then has spent all his professional energies on learning about free/libre/opensource software (FLOSS). After a couple of years of struggling with the fledgling operating system, he was able to see his efforts come to fruition at the lab that was then the only one at Corozal Community and Junior College. By 2000 the lab was using all open source software, and he develped a model called Cerros that connected the Linux server to diskless workstations with a program called LTSP (Linux Terminal Server Project). The name Linux.bz was registered in 2003 in Belize and is the company name at this time.
Linux.bz has presented introductory, security, and application workshops in the country since December, 2001. Jan’s wife, Judy, has been integrally involved in the effort to spread the good news about software freedom, and quickly switched her graphics efforts from the propietary ones to open source ones. She does most of the organization for the Linux.bz workshops and presentations, including Software Freedom Day.
After Jan’s retirement from teaching in 2004, he has continued to be involved in the open source movement, and is currently developing a grades program, Markus, which is being used by several Belize schools. It is open source and is free. The current adminstration and IT administrators (former students of Jan’s) have carried on the open source banner, and all the new upgraded labs at Corozal Community College and Corozal Junior College run Linux servers and applications.
In May of 2006, Jan and Judy Wilson, along with Kareem Young and Nydia Correa, administrators of the labs at Corozal Community College and Corozal Junior College, had the opportunity to attend DebConf06 (international) in Oaxtepec, Mexico, a conference of Debian developers, which is a major distribution of the Linux operating system.
Getting to associate with open source Debian developers was a real privilege, and the highlight of the trip was having breakfast with Mark Shuttleworth, who was and is responsible for the development of Ubuntu. It is the most popular distribution of Linux today.
Upon returning home and finding out about Software Freedom Day in September, 2006, Judy Wilson volunteered to head the Belize team, and a combined Software Freedom Day/Open House was held on September 15 at Corozal Community College. Though there was no lack of publicity or promotion, the turnout was somewhat disappointing, so a new approach has been planned for 2007. Linux.bz and supporters have rented a booth at the Belize Chamber of Commerce’s Expo in Belize City. The event falls on Software Freedom Day! There will an opportunity to show thousands of visitors to the Expo how they can benefit from software freedom!