Free and Open Source Software represents a paradigm shift in the way software is built. The development of software is not by strict commercially or government driven hierarchies, but by global communities that structure themselves in meritocracies based on contribution. Such communities are a global melting pot of diverse professions and skills that contribute to the progression of the goals represented by the software. Such projects not only engage developers, but also the users themselves in the direction and improvements of the product. The Free and Open Source Licenses also provides certain freedoms and access to the product that become critical in the quick turnaround times required in humanitarian or disaster response. This makes the software available as an irrevocable global public good available to anyone who wishes to use it.
As software does not need to be build specifically for the humanitarian domain for it to be useful for this service, there exist multitudes Free and Open Source projects that can be found in repositories like Sourceforge that can be freely accessed and applied by Humanitarian practitioners. There also exist projects targeted specifically for the Humanitarian domain like the Sahana, Ushahidi, InSTEADD, Dynamic COMPAS Humanitarian Project Quality Assurance, HRDAG Human Rights Database Analyser or a compilation of FOSS tools for NGOs in the NGO-in-a-box to name a few. A directory of H-FOSS project is being built by the Humanitarian-ICT community and Trinity College, US.Read more at en.wikipedia.org