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Public support of free/open software in Europe

Nov 12, 2000, 14:35 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Nicolas Pettiaux)

[ Thanks to Nicolas Pettiaux for this report: ]

Nice, 8 November 2000

The French city of Nice is hosting the 2000 edition of the European Information Society Technologies conference (IST2000), a large event attended by about 3500 people where status about the developpement and support on the important subject of IST in Europe is stressed and summarized.

More info can be found on http://istevent.cec.eu.int/

This year event whose title is The Information Society for All was introduced by Mrs. Nicole Fontaine, President of the European Parliament.

In her opening speech (to be found in French at http://istevent.cec.eu.int/sessiondocs/Summary_417_sumfr_pdf.pdf , see end of page 6), Mrs Fontaine said :

With this intention, the role of education will be essential, but it is necessary also that all the Member States of the Union understand that it is in the interest of their national cohesion, to multiply the convergent initiatives, and in particular to develop the "free software" and [with] "sources open" in particular within the public institutions, to exclude the discriminatory accesses, to reduce the personal costs of access to Internet, to accept the redistribution of the European funds which are devoted to the assistance with the isolated areas, handicapped or in difficulty of the economic situation, so that the company of information is really accessible to all. (personnal translation)

This is quite a support for the free and open-source software movement.

Further support and evidence of this was the fact that a plenary session fully devoted to Free / open source software was organized in the afternoon.

The contributors were

Mr. Richard Stallman, founder and president of the Free Software Foundation,

Mr. Guillermo Lozano, president of the Columbian association of researchers for the advancement of sciences and technologies,

Mr. Mark Cathcart, Technology strategist from IBM Corporate Technology Marketing,

Mr. Jesús M. González-Barahona, professor at Universidad Rey Juan Carlos Spain, and

Mr. Erkki Liikanen, member of the European Commission for Enterprise and Information Society.

(for more information see http://istevent.cec.eu.int/en/prog1.asp Choose Monday 6/11, 16.00 - 17.30)

The keynote speech, given by a Richard Stallman, provided an overview of the state of the play in this area. He traced the origin, reasons and characteristics of the free software movement, explained the licenses that are a decisive key and alerted the audience about the problem of software patents.

Guillermo Lozano gave an overview of the benefit of using Free/Open software in developing countries, and explained why they can contribute significatively to the developpement of these countries and why, in this specific domain recongized for their importance in the world, these "poor" countries can contribute to the wealth of the world, and that this is exceptionnal.

Mark Cathcart gave us the point of view of a key private company, IBM, showing why and how IBM's implication was important and profound, telling us that IBM is really building a strategy on Free/Open software. About the question of software patent, Mark Cathcart told us why IBM as a company needed sometimes to protect itself for some investment, that in the present world there was sometimes few other ways than using patents but also that IBM would probably seriously consider another way of doing if it exists (that can encourage people to look and try to find another better system)

Jesús M. González-Barahona explained the audience why learning computer sciences with Free/Open software was better than with proprietary software, allowing the students to use more the systems they studied, to learn the foundation and building blocks of these systems, and also learn the best way to contribute and write software by reading and learning from the best contribution, in the very same way a novelist learn by reading novels.

Finally commissioner Erkki Liikanen told us the importance of Free/Open software for Europe, and presented some of the activities the European Commission has engaged in supporting and financing the developpement and use of Free/Open software. He told us that more would come with the next program. (We are all expecting to see it.)

Due to the bad weather that covered Europe on Monday, we could not hear Mr. Thierry Carcenac, representative. Mr Thierry Carcenac is member of parlemement French. He is a also president of the general Council of the Tarn and assistant Maire of Lescure-to Albigensian in the Tarn. He is charged by the French government of a mission concerning the use and basis of the information systems in the administrations which will examine in particular the interest of the Free / open software and the means of supporting them.

Some members of the audience have commented that there were law propositions in Europe and elsewhere (France, Belgium, Brazil) about the use of open standards, for example in administration.

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