Public support of free/open software in Europe

[ 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

, 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
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.

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

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

The contributors were

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

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
, 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

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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