A few months ago, we wrote a story about the newly formed Iraqi Linux Users Group, ILUG (http://www.iraqilug.org). Their goals were as far reaching as their spirit and optimism were high. After months of war and strife within their country, how has this band of open source warriors fared? We caught up with two of the members, Bassam Hassan and Ashraf Hasson, to talk to them about the current state of affairs in the country, what they've experienced in the past year, and what they're looking to do and need in order to move on.
1) What's the overall status of the Iraqi software market now? How has it advanced in the past year?
Bassam: Iraq hasn't had a software market in the formal sense in the past 20 years under the former [Hussein] regime. After the war things began to change -- although slowly -- and we witnessed the birth of a new era in Iraqi history.
Currently, the Iraqi software market depends almost entirely on the communication industry in both the public and private domains. The demand for both IT services and IT expertise has dramatically increased in the past year, especially in the field of telecommunication. Hitherto, however, the state of anarchy in Iraq is impeding the developmental process of this burgeoning market and prevents it from reaching a mature state. In any event, the advancements in the IT sector in the past year were almost exclusively in the communication domain in terms of establishing mobile phone services, ISPs, and networking consultations businesses in general.
Ashraf: This is a good question. The answer is directly related to how businessmen view software in their businesses. In terms of developing dedicated software that serves businesses in certain aspects, things haven't reached far, and there has been hardly any advance, if any. Nevertheless, the private sector is aware of the lack of software benefits in their establishments and projects, so are mostly depending on the cracked software solutions. Only few companies and institutes, whether private or governmental, are seeking to license their software.
In terms of software firms, I have not heard of any software company that is creating solutions that are dedicated to certain tasks other than using and customizing ready-made packages to do the work. I would describe the overall status as slowly advancing.