Developing countries are historically disadvantaged, and the unprecedented rapid phase of technological development we see in our times, are leaving the disadvantaged in developing countries further and further behind. In the developed world the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has skyrocketed in the last two decades. Most people in the developing world are left out of this development. The gab between those who can and those who cannot effectively use ICT are frequently labeled as the digital divide. This divide is not only a divide between those who have access and those who do not have access to technical gadgets. This divide is a knowledge divide which is not limited to the effective use of ICT, but also the production and development of ICT.
An important part of most ICTs is the software. Software are needed to make computers and mobile phones useful. The software in ICTs are frequently held secret by the producers of the software, and sold as products to customers. The customer is allowed to use the software, but not to change and distribute copies of it. The treatment of software as products is the most well known paradigm within the ICT industry. Another way to treat software has been visible from the early start of the computer industry. Here software is treated like literature open to peer review and editing. The literature I am talking about here is the source code. The source code explains in a human readable way what the software should do. The source code contains knowledge for those able and willing to read it. Access to the source code allows a user to change the software, and the user are also allowed to distribute copies of it. The software produced in this way is called free software or open source software, to incorporate both of this terms I will use the term Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) in this thesis.
In this thesis I am going to explore FLOSS and how FLOSS can benefit the developing country Ethiopia. This I am going to do through two case studies conducted as part of the Health Information Systems Programme (HISP) network. I will base my research on a social informatics perspective on Information Systems (IS). And I will use action research as my research methodology. In the following sections I am going to give an introduction to this case studies, my motivations for doing this research, and the research domain and the objectives I had for the research. Last I am going to present the chapters in this thesis.