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Re: [Fsfe-uk] OSS Pol. v2 and other stuff

From: Lee Braiden
Subject: Re: [Fsfe-uk] OSS Pol. v2 and other stuff
Date: Fri, 10 Sep 2004 01:34:12 +0100
User-agent: KMail/1.7

On Wednesday 08 Sep 2004 09:52, Alex Hudson wrote:
>  http://www.affs.org.uk/~alex/OSSPolicyV2Response
> Any feedback people have would be most appreciated.

I have only one particular thought.  And it's more of a question than a 

Over the years of usability reports and recommendations, and threats to go 
with open source, and offers if people stay with it, etc., I've seen very 
little mention of one very important issue in government IT policy: citizen's 
rights.  I've I feeling I've seen it mentioned two or three times in 
government dialogue, but only one really springs to mind: a certain Peruvian 
congressman's letter, in which he stated that it wasn't just about money: his 
citizens had a RIGHT to non-proprietary storage, to access their own data; to 
avoid favoring one particular organisation, when their country includes many 
such organisations, etc.

I know the issue of avoiding lock-in has been mentioned, etc.  But are you 
strategically avoiding the ethical argument?  To me, it seems like the 
ethical perspective for citizens own rights eclipses monetary issues and 
decisions about lock-in within government etc. -- it's simply not a 
government's right to compromise such things.

Dr. Nuñez said it pretty well.  Note how he talks of a need to do this to 
maintain citizens' rights, rather than just discussing governmental long-term 
benefits.  In fact, he pretty much stated (in a part I haven't quoted) that 
the money, rather than being the driving factor in decisions, was irrelevant.  
Here's the main part on citizen's rights, anyway:

> The basic principles which inspire the Bill are linked to the basic 
guarantees of a state of law, such as:
> - Free access to public information by the citizen. 
> - Permanence of public data.
> - Security of the State and citizens.
> To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is 
indespensable that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The 
use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if 
necessary through the creation of compatible free software. 
> To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the 
usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of 
the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason 
the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the 
availability of the source code."

The whole letter (translated), for those who want a refresher, is here:


Now, I understand that it wouldn't be smart to tell our government that they 
have a whole barrage of new IT ethics to worry about, when they're probably 
still new to IT, and just finished getting around to basic things like 
wheelchair access.  But... perhaps it would be at least worthwhile to hint at 
such concerns, if only to avoid limiting the argument to financial 

Lee Braiden

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