Open Source Software for Community Development Organizations

Apr 9, 2009 | Blog, General, Technical

Editing Note: This is a legacy blog post, originally published several years ago on a website that was a precursor to Barred Owl Web.

As non-government organizations (NGOs), community development organizations require a lot of assistance in the technology sector, as their primary focus is on assisting the people who they seek to assist. If an organization does domestic development in the United States, the technology know-how and resources available might be a little more accessible than to an organization that does international development (like World Vision or Food for the Hungry, to name a few). Regardless of where the organization works, using technology does not always come very cheap or easy for it.

Individuals and businesses can also benefit from using open source software, as there is no stipulation over who can use it. By its very definition, “open source” means that the software comes with its own source code available to be modified by anyone. Open source software can licensed under one of a few different kinds of licenses, all of which stipulate that the original code must be included and accessible to the user.

As a result, most open source software is developed as free software. Thus, the cost factor is the biggest reason that open source software can be used to benefit people and organizations (like the NGO) that can not afford to pay for expensive software. Open source software is designed for internet (and website) technology, as well as for computer programs that you would open and use just like any other program on your local computer.

There are several open source software packages available to help an organization create, update, and maintain their website for example, such as Drupal and Joomla, which are Content Management Systems (CMS). A CMS is used to update and add content to a website, simply by logging into the website as a user with the permissions to change and add content. This section of our own website is operated by Drupal.

Local open source computer programs, include the famous Open Office. Open Office is a very powerful tool that can open and create word processing documents, spreadsheets, and more, just like Microsoft Word. The program is 100% free, and can be easily downloaded onto your computer from the internet. It can save and open documents in a Microsoft Word format so that files can be easily transferred between computers and edited with either software suite. It can work with Microsoft Word documents, Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, Microsoft Access databases, as well as the other Office programs.

As you can see, open source software can save your organization lots of money.

The website Source Forge ( is one of the leading websites on the internet that distributes open source software for free. Visit it to find and learn more about open source software that your organization could use.

Here is a list of well known open source software packages:

– Open Office:

– Mozilla Firefox (a web browser):

“Firefox” as most people call it, is an open source web browser that works on most operating systems including Microsoft Windows, Macintosh, and Linux. It is my own browser of choice, and it is known among people in the technology sector to be more stable and secure than Internet Explorer (IE). I highly recommend using Firefox over IE.

– PDF Creator (turn your pictures, Word documents, and more into a PDF file):

For your Website:

– WordPress:
– Drupal CMS:
– Joomla CMS:

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