Open Source

Celebrate Software Freedom Day

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This Saturday marks the annual Software Freedom Day, whereby proponents of all that is open source spread the word about the software and the concept, while having a good time.

Andre Coetzee, spokesman of SA Linux, says a number of events are planned throughout the country, manned by teams of volunteers whose aim will be to promote open source software to the general public.

On Saturday, 200 teams from 60 countries across the world, including many in Southern Africa, will gather to inform, educate and inspire the greater public to support transparent and sustainable technologies.

“It is a worldwide event with the aim to empower all people to freely connect, create and share in a digital world that is participatory, transparent and sustainable,” Coetzee says.

Coetzee says not many people are aware that such values should be applied to software design and distribution. He echoes Pia Waugh, president of Software Freedom Initiative, who has repeatedly pointed to a growing tendency for governments and large corporations to use closed source code as a means to gather information on people without their consent or knowledge.

Locked away

“Proprietary software keeps the source code locked away from public scrutiny, which means there is no way to know exactly what the software actually does, and no way to trust it to safeguard your human rights. Transparent technologies are about ensuring you can trust the results and operation of your technology,” Waugh has said.

Coetzee says SA has a growing support base when it comes to software freedom. The uptake of free and open source software has risen dramatically, particularly over the last year.

“We believe this has less to do with the economic climate (which has obviously put pressure on companies to lower their licensing costs), than with the business world embracing open alternatives, because of its technical superiority and operational stability,” he says.

Coetzee and his Gauteng teams will be at Cresta Centre, Benoni Lakeside Mall and East Rand Mall, on Saturday. They will distribute copies of Ubuntu donated by South African Internet billionaire Mark Shuttleworth, who is an avid supporter of free and open software.

“We aim to inform the general public about the issues surrounding software freedom. It is imperative to SA's future that we are able to turn to technology to help us without fear of interference from governments, organisations or corporations with hidden agendas,” Coetzee concludes.

Jason Hudson, spokesman for Breadbin, says that, while his organisation will not directly participate in the event as it is preparing for a large tender, it will make equipment available to teams. Breadbin spun out of The Shuttleworth Foundation Freedom Toaster Initiative.

“We have machines that can be used at events to burn CDs of Ubuntu. Events such as this are important for promoting the concept of open source software, especially to the ordinary members of the public,” he says.

Other events to mark the day include a social gathering in Cape Town and an exhibition at the Department of Science and Technology offices, in Pretoria.

For more information on Software Freedom Day, click here, or visit SA Linux.

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