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Cash for software clunkers? No, thanks, unless it promotes Free Software

The italian Information & Communications Technology (ICT) industry is in dire straits. On March 10, 2010, Assinform, the association of the bigger italian ICT companies, announced that their 2010 forecast includes an estimate of 8000 lost jobs, after the 16000 already lost in 2009. One of the solutions Assinform proposes to fight the crisis is what you may call a “cash for software clunkers” program: state-financed discounts for all companies that replace with newer applications obsolete software that isn’t working well anymore. At first sight, this looks like a dumb, or at least useless, idea, for the reasons explained below, but it could do well, after all, if implemented in the right way.