(this page is part of the Family Guide to Digital Freedom, 2007 edition. Please do read that introduction to know more about the Guide, especially if you mean to comment this page. Thanks)
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The main cases where it is essential that only Free as in Freedom software is used by Public Administrations are:
- teaching of basic Office Automation and, above all, Computer Science and ICT offered in Public schools or paid with public money anyway
- national security: only source code which is continuously under public scrutiny and is always available and customizable at will without paying fees or accepting other conditions by one single (possibly foreign) private company is acceptable in, for example, military servers
Other examples of laws to fight Digital Dangers
Here is a short list, by no means complete, of laws that all citizens could ask to their representatives to vote and implement:
- Demand that the ICT budget of Public Administrations, schools and Universities goes for open operating systems and hardware, unless it can be demonstrated that there are only commercial alternatives
- Demand that all information on public spending is published online and then, of course, get a computer and check it!
- Limit goverment support of schools and Universities using proprietary software whenever there are other solutions
- If no open solutions are available for word processing and other basic computers related tasks, finance their development in the shortest possible time
- Demand that all educational software, digital reference manuals or electronic encyclopedias, be they commercial or Free, can be used in public schools and Universities only if they are available for all operating systems
- Forbid or limit exclusivity agreements between hardware and software makers
- Impose that, on all new computers, hardware and software are priced separately and explicitly, and that all new computers can also be purchased, with the same financing conditions and warranty, without any software included.
There are two things in common among all these proposals. One is preserving public records which are really accessible to everybody, now and in the future. The other is the fact that guaranteeing equal opportunities by placing fair, competent rules on software and digital technologies can reduce public expenses and help the environment while creating more local jobs. No political party should refuse to grab such opportunities or to explain why it doesn’t. It is time that very clear positions on these issues (and all the other Digital Dangers) begin to be always included in the program of every candidate to any political post, no matter what his or her party is: be sure to check them the next time you vote, and vote accordingly.
Where Are Consumer Associations?
Anybody who really cares about the real interests of all consumers can no longer ignore the existence, quality and advantages of open digital technologies because, as this book proves, their presence or absence directly impacts the wallets and quality of life of all citizens. Where then are all the Consumers Associations? Are they doing all they can, or anything at all, to inform and protect their members and all the other citizens from the Digital Dangers described in this book?
So far, in many countries this has happened only by chance, in isolated cases: not as a continuous, conscious and coherent strategy to be internationally coordinated. It is still pretty common for these groups to buy the first computer they find at the corner department store without thinking about its content, and then use it to write, in closed file formats, reports which will be published (maybe…) on websites not usable by all consumers. This is not acceptable anymore: just as has been indicated for political candidates, even Consumer Associations should have an explicit policy of monitoring Digital Dangers, protecting their members from such dangers and spreading the necessary information.