HumIT is a collaborative project investigating student contribution to IT infrastructure services for humanitarian open source software projects.
All enterprise-scale software systems require IT infrastructure services to support operation and use of the system. For proprietary products, support is usually available from the vendor that owns the product. For FOSS products, the situation is more variable. Widely used products (Linux, Apache, etc.) have large enough client bases to attract companies who make a business providing support for these products for a fee. To some extent, this works for humanitarian FOSS products too, but products with smaller (and often non-profit) user communities are a less attractive market for IT service providers. This creates opportunity for students to fill a need by providing services on a volunteer basis. HumIT was created to explore this niche.
Recognition of the opportunity for students to gain valuable infrastructure services came from prior work related to humanitarian FOSS. This earlier work focused on student participation in FOSS projects by contributions to the FOSS products (e.g., by working on the software). This prior work started in January 2006, when Ralph Morelli, Heidi Ellis and Trishan de Lanerolle at Trinity College began investigating the possibility of using the Sahana open source Disaster Management System as a base for student software projects. Several initial projects provided very good proof of concept results.
From these early efforts, several projects emerged.
- Hfoss.org - Ralph Morelli established the Humanitarian FOSS project in collaboration with computing faculty at Wesleyan University and Connecticut College. Heidi Ellis serves on the Steering Committee for HFOSS, but was unable to participate in the initial funded work due to commitments to other funded projects. HFOSS has created a certificate program related to student participation in open source and is starting HFOSS chapters at other institutions.
- SoftHum - Heidi Ellis, Greg Hislop and Ralph Morelli established the SoftHum project to focus on course level issues related to student participation in software development of humanitarian FOSS projects. SoftHum project supports instructors desiring to employ HFOSS by developing processes and materials for courses, documenting successful student work, and preparing additional faculty to employ HFOSS in computing education.
Although all these projects share the idea of "student participation in humanitarian FOSS", the challenges of contributing to FOSS software development (Hfoss and SoftHum) are very different from the challenges of contributing to IT infrastructure services (HumIT).
- Gregory Hislop - Drexel University
- Heidi Ellis - Western New England College
- Drexel University
- Ethan Greer
- Laura Mitchell
- Padraic DeVincentis
- Western New England College
- Dennis Wells
- Logan Hotchkiss
- Matt Sproul
- The iSchool at Drexel University
- Department of Computer Science and Information Technology, Western New England College
Acknowledgment and Disclaimer
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant numbers DUE-0940925 and DUE-0940893. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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