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The Codebreakers – A BBC World Documentary on FOSS and Development

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A two-part documentary, The Codebreakers was aired on BBC World TV during May 2006. It investigates how poor countries are using FOSS applications for development, and includes stories and interviews from around the world. A 40-minute version of The Codebreakers is now available for free download online.

The famous digital divide is getting wider. A two-part documentary, The Codebreakers aired on BBC World starting 10 May 2006 examines whether free/open source software (FOSS) might be the bridge?


FOSS contains 'source code' that can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restriction. It has been around for over 20 years but most PC owners are not aware that the Internet search engines and many computer applications run on FOSS.


"It's not that FOSS has had a bad press, it has had no press because there is no company that 'owns' it," says executive producer Robert Lamb. "But we found that in the computer industry and among the afficionados, it is well known and its virtues well understood."


The crew of the independent producers who made the film went to nearly a dozen countries around the world to see how the adoption of FOSS presents opportunities for industry and capacity development, software piracy reduction, and localization and customization for diverse cultural and development needs.


Stories from The Codebreakers include computer and Internet access for school children in Africa, reaching the poor in Brazil, tortoise breeding programmes in the Galapagos, connecting villages in Spain, and disaster management in Sri Lanka. The documentary also includes interviews from key figures around the world.


Intel, IBM, Sun and Microsoft all seem to agree that FOSS is a welcome presence in computer software. According to Jonathan Murray of Microsoft "The Open Source community stimulates innovation in software, it's something that frankly we feel very good about and it's something that we absolutely see as being a partnership with Microsoft."


BBC World aired the two-part documentary at the following times:


Episode One


Wednesday 10 May 19:30 GMT

Thursday 11 May 09:30 GMT

Friday 12 May 16:30 GMT

Monday 15 May 01:30 and 07:30 GMT


Episode Two


Wednesday 17 May 19:30 GMT

Thursday 18 May 09:30 GMT

Friday 19 May 16:30 GMT

Monday 22 May 01:30 and 07:30 GMT


For local times, please lookup your country in the TV Listings on BBC World's website


Following its ten transmissions on BBC World The Codebreakers is now available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 license. To view a copy of this license, visit

The International Open Source Network (IOSN), UNDP Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP), International Development Research Centre of Canada and UNESCO have participated in the production of this documentary.


Related Links


Download The Codebreakers [OGG, 90MB] [WMV, 60MB] [M4V, 225MB] [DVD ISO,, 1.5GB]


Order The Codebreakers on DVD and VHS from TVE Asia Pacific

Order The Code Breakers Documentary with Persian subtitles


DVD - Software for Development: Is Free/Open Source Software the Answer?


FOSS e-Primer Series


Roadmap for Open ICT Ecosystems


All APDIP e-Resources


The International Open Source Network (IOSN)


The International Development Research Centre (IDRC)



Last modified 2008-01-31 10:02 AM


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