BUENOS AIRES, Argentina--Last week, I touched down in Buenos Aires with my Ubuntu-powered Netbook in tow and started making calls and sending e-mails to get a handle on the tech scene in this New York-size Metropolis. That is, of course, a difficult thing to pin down, but through sweet serendipity, one phrase did seem to come up over and over again--"open source."
A few years back, Argentina's government looked at mandating the use of all open-source software in its offices, largely to save on software costs.
But the open-source gestalt also fits well with Argentina's independent streak--whether it's the lasting legend of the altruistic gaucho cowboy, rough and rugged while looking out for his fellow man, or the smell of fresh croissants in the air and certain continental flair that make Buenos Aires share more in common with Paris than Caracas, Venezuela.
In fairness, it should be noted that Venezuela actually followed through with mandating open-source software for its government, but Argentina's love of software libre may go even deeper. By mid-decade surveys indicated nearly half of businesses here were using Linux.
With more than a third of Argentina's population centered in Greater Buenos Aires, the city is today home to a thriving open-source community that appears to make the country a leader of open source in Latin America. A quick supporting metric: Firefox 4 has been downloaded in Argentina close to a million times already, according to Mozilla figures, which is several times more per capita than the adoption rate in neighboring Brazil, with its much-lauded emerging economy.
I contacted Guillermo Movia, who works with Mozilla Argentina, and he pointed me to the University of Buenos Aires, one of nearly three dozen sites in Argentina--and many more across Latin America--where Flisol, or the Festival of Latin American Free Software Installation, took place last Saturday, April 9, or 9 de Abril.
The daylong open-source geek-out took place upstairs in part of the university's business school not far from the center of Buenos Aires. The building's heavy wooden doors and ancient stone floors presented the same dignified facade as one might find within the gates of Columbia or Yale. But the energy of the Flisol event was a better match to the buzz outside, across Avenida Cordoba, where a stream of students, tourists, and commuters flowed out of stores and subway stations into a crowded park speckled with the pink autumn flowers of ceiba trees. … Read more