[Fsf-friends] Keep publicly-funded content free and open...

Frederick Noronha fred@bytesforall.org
Sat May 28 15:10:45 IST 2005

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, May 28: Publicly-funded content must be openly available, and sharing knowledge only enhances its richness, Italian senator Fiorello Cortiana told a four-nation international conference held in the Kerala capital this morning.

Eminent economist and former Venezuela minister for planning and development Dr Filipe Perez-Marti agreed, and stressed that “participation, solidarity and wisdom” would be the key three words that characterise a new global situation.

Amidst praise for Kerala for organising this “first ever” south-to-south contact in the world of free software and free knowledge, speakers from Latin America (Venezuela, and  Brazil), Italy and India explored ways of understanding their respective situations and possibilities for collaboration across the oceans.

The Latin Americans were keen to hear about Kerala's attempts to look at take Free Software solutions to schools, through their IT@School project which aims to train about 200 master trainers, who will then train at least one teacher from each school in the state in the use of free software.

Free Software Foundation of India director Prof G Nagarjuna stressed how India was able to fight-back attempts to make software a patentable item. He said help for this endeavour had come from enlightened politicians, the peoples' science movement, media and others.

Latin American delegates spoke of how their firms – including the Venezualan oil giant – had opted for free software, both for more control over their work and avoid possibilities of sabotage in a crucial sector of the economy.

Government of Brazil special advisor in the ministry of communications Antonio Bezerra de Albquerque Neto said Brazil was keen to build links with countries like India and China, and stressed that Free Software is a key means of in building a fairer society.

SPACE executive secretary Satish Babucalled this a “fairly unique event” and said Kerala had a good chance of building itself as a global destination of Free Software. SPACE chairperson Prof K R Srivathsan termed Free Software a “natural way for the scientific community to play around with”.

Former musician turned Free Software activist Juan Carlos Gentile said he hoped this first-ever meet of its kind “would lead to many things to come”. Kerala IT secretary PH Kurian said ideas of sharing knowledge were “not alien” to India, and cited the case of Gautam Buddha who used the people's language to spread his message.

Kerala began this four-nation meet on Saturday morning, and it aims to take the ideas of free software to different realms of society, which can gain from the power of sharing knowledge and culture.

SPACE, the Thiruvananthapuram-based Society for the Promotion of Alternative Computing and Environment, is co-organiser of this event with the global NGO Hipatia (www.hipatia.net) and the Free Software Foundation-India (www.fsf.org.in).

Organisers say that the international free software movement has shown a “new way of knowledge creation and social ownership”. They're keen to explore how the “free software model” can be applied to fields as diverse as governance, digital inclusion, development and culture. (ENDS)

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