Last month I participated in the third annual CONSEGI conference in Brasília, Brazil. The first CONSEGI conference was organized in 2008, and though it was organized by and for the Brazilian government, it speaks loudly and clearly with an authentic open source voice. In that first meeting, the CONSEGI declaration stated their disappointment in the appeals by several of their ISO/IEC national bodies being dismissed by the ISO and IEC technical management boards in the Standardization of Office Open XML, and criticized the ISO/IEC for "inability to follow its own rules". The declaration called into question credibility of ISO/IEC, with the signers asserting that they will no longer consider ISO standards to be automatically valid for government use. In 2009, CONSEGI hosted the 3rd International ODF Workshop and established the Brasilia Protocol, which commits its signatories to use ODF internally, with each other, and ultimately in their electronic interaction with third parties and the public. (I was a signatory to that protocol representing Red Hat.) And so I was very excited to see what CONSEGI 2010 would set as its agenda.
The "Project Description" of CONSEGI 2010 contained this paragraph which really highlights the answer to the question "why open source?" in Brazil (or in any other Democratic government):
The citizenship vision that goes under CIT (Communication and Information Technology, aka ICT) public politics of the Federal Government has as reference the collective rights and not only the sum of the citizen individual rights.
Think about that for a moment or two...
Last year I attended Open World Forum in Paris. It was a lively conference with broad representation of industry leaders, community organizers, and government officials and administrators. The warm reception by the Mayor's office in Paris (at the Hôtel de Ville) underscored what has become increasingly obvious in the analysis of economic statistics: open source software is appreciated, in Paris, France, and Europe. My reflections on the subject of last year's topic, the digital recovery, were captured in the blog posting From Free to Recovery. This year, the agenda of the Open World Forum (Sept 30-Oct 1, 2010) is more ambitious, and I am pleased to be on the program committee, an editor of the 3rd edition of the FLOSS 2020 Roadmap document, as well as one of the organizers of a think-tank session focused on, and beyond, the role of open source software and the future of the BRIC thesis.
When I started working on GNU C++ in 1987, I could almost feel the course of history changing with every line of code I wrote. When I started Cygnus Support in 1989, I was convinced that it was only a matter of time before companies began to realize that proprietary software restrictions did nothing to help their competitive advantage and everything to harm it. And though early funding for my work came from government agencies (US DARPA in 1987 and French INRIA in 1988), I never quite expected to be visiting and promoting open source in Malaysia [short version] [longer version]. Yet such is the reach of open source software! Now the Government of Malaysia proudly reports an astonishing 97% adoption rate for open source software in this new report:
It was more than a month ago that I started my pilgrimage to Texas to prepare for and participate in a court case in East Texas, but it still seems like only yesterday. As Groklaw aptly reports, opposing counsel pressed not only the question of whether Red Hat and Novell infringed three patents originally issued to Xerox corporation (which later fell into the hands of a non-practicing entity), but argued before the jury that there was a fundamental conflict between property rights and open source software--a conflict they wanted the jury to resolve in their favor.
While I have been processing the events of the trial, playing and replaying lines of questioning over and over in my mind, I've barely been able to keep up with the extraordinary changes to both the competitive landscape and the competitive rules of the technology industry. Having escaped from one rabbit-hole, I appear to have fallen down another directly.
Yesterday Matt Mullenweg announced the establishment of the WordPress Foundation. It's goals, among others, are "to further the mission of the WordPress open source project: to democratize publishing through Open Source, GPL software".
He further elaborates:
The point of the foundation is to ensure free access, in perpetuity, to the projects we support. People and businesses may come and go, so it is important to ensure that the source code for these projects will survive beyond the current contributor base, that we may create a stable platform for web publishing for generations to come. As part of this mission, the Foundation will be responsible for protecting the WordPress, WordCamp, and related trademarks. A 501(c)3 non-profit organization, the WordPress Foundation will also pursue a charter to educate the public about WordPress and related open source software.
We hope to gather broad community support to make sure we can continue to serve the public good through freely accessible software.