Humanitarian FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) Development

Ellis, H., Morelli, R., deLanerolle,T. and Hislop, G. Holistic software engineering education based on an open source humanitarian project. 20th Annual Conference on Software Engineering Education and Training (CSEET2007). (forthcoming July 2007).

For the past year, Trinity College has utilized Sahana, a free and open source disaster management system, as a foundation to teach software engineering. The goals of the use of the Sahana project are threefold: to provide students with a real-world software engineering experience; to introduce students to the open-source development model; and to attract a wider variety of students into computing due to the real-world and humanitarian nature of the Sahana project. This paper discusses an approach for using open source software as a foundation to teach software engineering in a Liberal Arts environment by involving students in an ongoing, real-world project from the very beginning, allowing students with a wide range of backgrounds to participate. Results of a learning survey of a small group of students who have participated in the project are presented. The paper also provides guidance to others contemplating incorporating open source projects into their software engineering courses or curriculum.

Morelli, R., Ellis, H., deLanerolle, T., Damon, J., Walti, C. Can student-written software help sustain humanitarian FOSS? Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management ISCRAM2007 Conference (B. Van de Walle, P. Burghardt and C. Nieuwenhuis, eds.) Delft, the Netherlands, May 2007, pp. 41-44. (pdf, ppt)

This paper describes a Humanitarian FOSS (free and open source software) project carried out by a team of students and faculty at Trinity College. The project outcome was a volunteer management module that has recently been incorporated into the Sahana Disaster Recovery IT System. The Humanitarian FOSS movement is based on two premises: (1) that quality humanitarian software can be built and given freely to governments and organizations in need of such software ; and (2) that the FOSS development model can successfully harness the contributions of humanitarian-minded IT and computing professionals. The Trinity Sahana project introduces a third premise: (3) that students and faculty whose main goals are educational and pedagogical can contribute successfully to the Humanitarian FOSS movement. This paper examines these three premises focusing on the question raised by the third.

Ellis, H., Morelli, R., deLanerolle, T, Damon, J, and Raye, J., Can humanitarian open-source software development draw new students to CS? SIGCSE-2007 Technical Symposium on Computer Science Education, Covington, KY, March 2007.

In this paper, we present an example humanitarian open-source software project that has been used since January 2006 at a small liberal-arts college as an experiment in undergraduate CS education. Sahana (Sinhalese for relief) is a free and open-source disaster management system developed in Sri Lanka by a group of IT professionals following the 2004 Asian tsunami. It is a web-based tool that addresses the IT coordination problems that typically occur in trying to recover from a large-scale disaster. We are currently exploring the wider use of Sahana as a sustainable model and platform for teaching about open-source software development while at the same time allowing CS students and educators to make a socially useful contribution of their time, effort, and expertise. This paper presents our experiences with Sahana including the benefits for both academia and industry.