Table ronde présentée par Alix

De April MediaWiki


  • conférence donnée par Alix cazenave
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Mrs Alix Cazenave: I will be asking you four questions : about the situation and opportunities in your countries or area. The second one about ... we will be exploring the public policies that are being implemented in your country or region. Then we will talk of the hindrances to the development of Free Software, and to finish the perspectives of evolution by 2020. So, please, if someone is willing to start. I would like to have an eye on the context, how information technologies are developed, how Free Software is developed in your country or region and what specific opportunities does FLOSS offer for your region. Mrs Nwakanma, would you like to start?

Mrs Nnenna Nwkanma – co-founder and chairman of the FOSSFA Council (Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa): Oh my! (laughters in audience) Good morning. So now we're speaking English? OK. How should I begin? I have a flue, that's a good beginning. So I'll be coughing in between. I'll try not to sneeze a lot.

Some 20 years ago, we didn't have Open Source in Africa. And I clearly remember, it was some 15 years ago, we had what we call the “Africa Information Highway”. So that was when Africa started, with the Economic Commission, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, started laying down global policies for information technologies in itself, which was basically bringing in the Internet and all of that. But as of today, what is the situation? The situation is that, like someone was just presenting, the idea of Open Source has come to stay... basically, brought and fired by advocates, the guys who ......... take a stand and all of that, to governments. But with we've past the stage, and countries in Africa have started critical analysis towards adoption of all those policies. South Africa is the biggest economy in Africa, and last year, march last year, South Africa adopted Open standards, and de facto Open Source for the IT procurements. The policy is this: South Africa will choose Open Source; in the cases where they don't have an Open Source solution, then they will choose a closed solution. In the case where they have two solutions, one Open and one closed, the automatic choice will be Open source. And in Ghana, the government has approached the Kofi Annan center for the kind of policy guideline towards adopting an Open Source policy. And presently, the Free Software Foundation for Africa, where I'm the council chair, have engaged with what we call the Comesa, it's this Central, Southern and East Central part of Africa, it's a group of 19 countries that have engaged on policy, processes with them towards an Open Source Development Office in those 19 countries.

The opportunities that we have is that we don't have a “for or against” at policy level. Policy is something that whoever can convince most takes it with him, and that is something that is very good in technology. It's not the same as politics. Technology, when it works, it works ; when it doesn't work, everybody sees it doesn't work. And so, so far, what governments have been saying in Africa is what is that works? If it works, then we'll go by it. So it's a great opportunity for Africans and for Open Source in Africa. The odd thing which I see as an opportunity is that Open Source allows start-ups, so African business people are engaging Open Source. So the argument that African policies is within it, fine, so this is a home made technology. This is technology from home: it is easier to adopt, so that is a welcome opportunity. Now, corruption is not only inherent in Africa, but we know big corporations, software vendors, are not just selling software; they are also selling money, trying to get decision-makers to buy their projects, to buy their software and ...

Mrs Alix Cazenave: Well, maybe we'll be seeing these problems just a little bit later. We're going to have an general overview of the different contesters. So I would like Mister Martini to tell us of the contest in Brazil, and why the Brazilian government decided to have such a policy, such a voluntary policy, towards Free Software.

Mr Renato Martini – president of the Brazil National Institute of Information Technology: Good morning. I will speak in Portuguese and my friend will do the translation.

Brazil is a very huge country and its power is absolutely .[dispersed ?].. So you have federal politics and you have regional politics. From 1999, we had some regional governments that promoted the huge use of Free Software, especially the people from the South Brazil. In 2003, president Lula's government, this has been a [big enhancement] federal government from the south [institute]. So from this time, you have the decision government had decided ….. to use Free Software. The [ goal ?] of the politics is to deal with the qualification of the use of FS and the federal government.

In the same time, the main idea is to include the major number of brazilian citizens in this [?con … ?]. To use this this technology to include the maximum number of citizens in this initiative, it has been necessary to create a [???????????????????????????] In the same time, the general politic allowed to have an increase in the middle classs of Brazil so you have to adopt some general politics. In terms of computer for everybody, Brazil is the third country in the world today, and this is why it's really necessary: with service on one side, and access on the other side, everything is based on Free Software. You have in a way what we call “digital inclusion”, which is a service oriented to the customer, on the other hand you have the qualification of this from the perspective of the government [entities...]. So this is the resume: you have inclusion, integration and qualification, which [we led].

Mrs Alix Cazenave: Thank you very much for this presentation. So we have seen two very different contexts, between Africa, which is mainly discovering FS, and Brazil, which has a very voluntary policy towards FS. Mr Krishnan, you have maybe a situation which is in between. Could you tell us more about that in India?

Mr C.N. Krishnan – director of NRCFOSS – National Resource Centre For Free/Open Source Software (India): Thanks. Good morning. Before [I talk of open source in India ?] maybe I'll summarize the current scene of IT.

India of course is well-known for its IT, but you have to realize it's almost exclusively export-oriented. For ….[...........] that India has comes from exports, with the result that we have something like 10-12% of the local population [of ….] which has access to IT. It's a [stark] thing, since IT really hasn't been [… presented?…] to [about] 80% of people. In […] today, why has that happened? One [reason?] is of course the cost, affordability. The second is the language issue, because in India, English is spoken by about 5-6% of people. [...So if you understood me ] so that means that 95% of people don't understand English and all IT is English. So we have a problem of affordability on one hand, of language incompatibility on the other, because of which the access is limited to 10-12%. So it's obvious that, to cut the cost barrier – it's partly to cut the cost barrier- we have to go in the Open Source way.

Another thing about India is that we have over 300 million cell phones, we are probably the second largest cell phone market in the world. And that's probably the only medium through which we can reach the larger number of our people. So 95% of people don't have an access, so if they have to have one, it has to be delivered over the cell phone. So we are [….]. software and hardware wise …. So it's really obvious we need to have a policy about it, that can cut cost of software and that can make software services available in the Indian languages. For the moment, there isn't much of a policy because, as in many countries, we have a central government and then we have a provincial [state] government and many things fall in between the two stools - you known, who has to make the policy, and so on. The result is that neither parties make much policy.

Some states, more progressive states, have in the six months back come to some policy pronouncements. And the central government is working on some roadmap, I guess the first draft last week in Dehli. It's not great policy, because we need policy that is [safety wise] , first use – like for example if we have a department of government that wants to use Open Source, actually we are not rewarding them in any way, they just have to provide that extra effort ... How do you incentivize people who are willing to use Open Source? How do you create special funds for startups which can welcome Open Source? We need a policy about education, because education is an area where Open Source has an easy and natural way get in. We don't quite have policy there. [ ???] for example language computing: we have no policy on language computing.

We need to incentivize, we need to have some framework. I think slowly things are happening and Open Source would be there one of the players to push this access/availability issue towards the population. So I hope next time I'm here, I'll have better things to tell you about Indian policies. Thank you.

Mrs Alix Cazenave: OK, so in India you have a big opportunity with digital inclusion, between multilingualism and the accessibility-affordability of the IT equipment. Now I'm turning to my fellow Europeans. In Europe of course, we don't have the same stakes about digital inclusion, it's not such a gap: we have a better IT equipment than can be [found] in India or Africa and maybe some of the stakes are somewhere else. So what can you tell us about the opportunities that FLOSS offers to Europe. Mister Villasante?

Mr Jesus Villasante – Head of the Software Technologies unit in the EU Directorate General Information Society and Media: Well, maybe I will talk about some opportunities that some people ....................... outside the picture today but I have to say that the EU Directorate General Information Society and Media we believe ........... that the technology .......for the future........ and I'm going to use only a couple of schemes, which will be Internet of services and convergence. And I believe that this is going to be a major opportunity for Europe, for different reasons.

First, Internet is going to be [on land ???] and services will be what they will be there. So Internet will be populated by millions of service that people will be using, will be adopting, etc etc ... therefore I think that the more we have a perspective, the better.

Second, that this perspective of the Internet of services is very much linked to the [audience ?] of basically three uses: IT, telcom and media. We are talking here most of the time about IT. But the two other uses, telecom and media, are very very powerful, are very very important, and Europe is very very small on those two. So the more we evolve about this governance of the three uses, the better. I have to say that in the US the companies that are showing the path towards the future are really in [embedded in this ... ?] Google, Amazon, so all these companies that are really combining these uses – telecom, media and information technologies. And now, if these [...] opportunities, to me, we have to grasp them, I know to explore them, to make use of them. To me, one of the most promising ways is to play the open cards. The open card means that you have to share information, that you have to collaborate with others, that you have to play with the rules of the future. And these rules of the future, we seem them now : it is open innovation, it is , and just to conclude, if Google needs here ............. it is very likely that the key technology players will not the ones that today are today the key players, it could different one. So I think this is basically (coughing) and from my point of view, Internet of services and convergence are key points in this.

Mrs Alix Cazenave: Thank you. Mister Hammerstein, maybe you have a different point of view to share with us?

Mr David Hammerstein – European Member of Parliament (Europan Greens): Yes, I do. Good morning.

The question of Open Source, of Free & Open Software, of sharing information is the seam of the struggle for social justice, and for ecological system as well and for many issues that we have before us which are [a fusion of different sectors]. But we cannot just preach: we have to practise, we have to practise what we preach. Yesterday the European Parliament presented an opinion on access to documents it was being video screened by the service of the European Parliament and in my report I was saying that I am sorry but many of my constituents cannot follow this video screening because they don't have Windows Media. There response of the European Commission was “that is not a problem, we could send them the text by mail”.

The issue of Open Source, the issue of interoperability, technological neutrality are very important issues. And the issue of fighting against monopolies as well, and I think that it is very commendable that the European Commission has had a strong position, a very positive one, for example in suing Microsoft on monopoly practises. Nevertheless, the institutions, the European institutions themselves in their practise of public procurement have not been an positive example but a negative example. We are locked in the European Parliament, we are locked European commission, we are locked in the Council. I cannot open up a document that my constituents from Estremadula in Spain. The regional government uses Open Source, I cannot open up their documents in the European Parliament. My constituents cannot communicate with me. They cannot see me in video streaming. This is a scandal! It is a question of democracy, it is a question of communication, it is a question of access to public document, and it is a scandal!

(clapping from the audience)

So, this is just an example within our institutions. Obviously, when this is taken to world scale, we are talking about the decisions of the European Commission when it negotiates and let me get into the details many international agreements about. So, I'm not going to mention to you either the real need of fusion between energy systems and IT ,which I think needs interoperability and needs Open Source. If we are going to confront climate change, one of the key issues is that all of the electricity grids of the world have to have communication with the users and the consumers of the electricity for it to be efficient. I won't go into it. But this will necessarily mean open standards.

So how are we going to confront it? We are confronting it the European Parliament, so to practise what we preach, with a petition that has been signed by dozens of firms, thousands of people. It's at “”, you can see it on the web-page. We are fighting for a new public procurement policy of the European institutions themselves, because we made a study and found out that more than 25% of the public procurement in IT in the European Union mentions the name of one firm they're going to hire. This violate every single directive that has to do with public procurement in the European Union, and it is something the European Union isn't doing anything about. I mean in some countries – I think it was the Czech republic – they mention in one call for some service 78 times one company, in saying we have to hire these services. So this is a scandal! So we have a petition before the European Parliament to change the situation, asking for a response. And there are many other initiatives for digital rights. I won't go into the many political issues that we have on the table at the European Parliament – such as the fight over the issues of software patents which is still being pushed forward in many ways. There are other digital rights, and the struggle for interoperability, which I think is probably one of the key struggles within the fields of software, and I think it should extend.

And as far as sharing and common knowledge, this could be extended for example to the field of research: We have a tremendous struggle of sharing knowledge in research, how can this take place? And in this is the question of social justice in the world, but also within Europe. And it affects all of the small & medium sized firms. The small & medium sized firms are the key to innovation in Europe are costless and I won't go into it any more because there are too many subjects.

We talk a lot about - it's a buzz word - postures, but the key to postures is to have into our ... common technological ideas and to be able to share knowledge. The key to scientific innovation – I was just reading it on the train today – people in the field of physics how they can share there scientific documents. All of these issues are on the table so the issue of social justice and openness is really a contemporary issue and it's an issue that is in many many different fields. So I think it's great your initiative to have this forum and what many you are fighting in many different fields that is activism, or in our field that is politics. Thank you.

Mrs Alix Cazenave: Thank you very much Mister Hammerstein. Maybe I will let Mister Villasante answer you about a few points. Maybe you would like to give some complementary elements about the hindrances to the development of FS, the public tenders in Europe or the problems of interoperability.

Mr Jesus Villasante: Well, not necessarily to answer but to complete it. I mean [....introduce....] here and I think that many people, not only at European level, but also at national level, share these concerns. A progressive agenda is something that has proved to be more difficult, because I don't think that these topics are at the high level in the political agenda. So I think if you want to discuss these to some floor, that then you have really politicians making specific proposals. This is becoming more of a problem, it has not been as traditional as we have seen in the [globally domains?] [communication] [that have been brought out over the years] [on access to the Internet and modern]

Some things however to accompany: you have mentioned the fierce competition with the European commission which are very proactive. I feel that this is something

On one procurement, we also see that there are problems in commission very usefully