World Summit on the Information Society

Imran William Smith imran at
Fri Mar 14 13:21:41 UTC 2003

Sasha Brawer wrote:
 > Would it make sense to have more texts catering to NGOs, for instance
explaining why Free Software is good for developing countries?

 > Another area where NGOs might become our ally is encryption.

I work in Malaysia and have a part to play in the running
of the 'Asian Open Source Centre' (
Personally I support free software but the Government is funding this 
centre and 'free software centre' would not be supported financially,
not enough people have heard of that term in Malaysia and the (fairly
conservative Government) feeling is, we have to start the
argument based on cost, and mention the freedom
aspects when people are listening.  'Software is a human rights
issue' doesn't tend to attract too many listeners round here.
In a country where demonstrations are not a recommended activity
unless the demonstration is an official Government demonstration,
human rights / activism is considered 'best left to NGO / Govt'.

Of course, many argue that precisely in developing countries, price
is not the issue, since piracy of proprietary software is so
rampant.  Particularly, that applies to the home user.  Businesses
are occasionally raided here for software piracy, but private
homes never are.  So there's very little incentive for the home
user to clean up his/her act and move to OSS.

Anyway, I think free software can make a big push into developing
nations.  Especially if you can get to countries early in their
IT adoption process, you have less legacy proprietary software slowing
things down.   FSF-India can hopefully be a big help.

The major news I heard about WSIS and open source / free software, was
the way USA attacked and watered down a WSIS statement on open source
recently.  At least that shows that events like WSIS are talking
about the issues.

Encryption - I think that's a more difficult way to push free software.
Why is encryption limited to free software?  Couldn't Microsoft launch
an (admittedly, difficult to trust) PGP-a-like?

If anybody from FSF Europe would like to come to Malaysia at any
time and talk free software, I'm sure I could find you an opportunity
during 2003.

Imran William Smith

--  | Asian Open Source Centre     | MIMOS Berhad, Malaysia

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