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FOSS and universities

From: Ricardo Gabriel Herdt
Subject: FOSS and universities
Date: Mon, 29 Sep 2008 15:49:58 -0300
User-agent: Mozilla-Thunderbird (X11/20080724)

        Hi all,

I would like to start a discussion about something I have been thinking about on the last days regarding free software and public universities. I study musical composition at a brazilian public university and we have a reality where a great amount of money is spent on proprietary software. There's a mentality among the professors and students that we should use the best tools available, and "best" here means the industry standard. The big problem is that it's common sense that most of the students will be using illegal copies of these software at home and at their work, the same people that in the near future will become docents at their unis and will continue supporting proprietary tools. We users of GNU software know that this money could be much better invested in other things, like better equipment, professors etc. So what if a country came with a project of free software where a percentage of the money currently spent on proprietary programs for educational and research purposes would be redirected to a national project of free software development of all kind of applications that the unis need? It would work like that: the art department of a Uni needs that a specific program (let's say Gimp, Blender, an AutoCAD alternative whatever) gets some features it's proprietary concurrent already offers. They would fill a requirement to this national organization which would be responsible for adressing the requests to the related developer groups. These could be students or professors of computer science departments of the federal universities who would be paid to work on a specific open source project. They could fork something that already exits or work together with the original developers, that would depend if the changes would be welcome on the original project or not. The consequences would be amazing, both for the free software movement and for the education in this country. Ok, that sounds great, but is it an utopia ? That's the point I would like to discuss here. An approach could be to send a project to a politician (in my case a brazilian one) who already has experience with free software (in Brazil we already have a good number of governmental entities using free software, for example) who could work on a law project. What I would like to hear is if there's already something similar been doing in other countries. Could someone post some information? This could be tried in many countries around the globe, I really think it could work somewhere. Probably countries in the EU would need a different approach that south-american ones, for example , but I think we should share opinions and ideas on this mailing list and maybe grow this discussion to something bigger, what about a GNU-campaign?
    Waiting impatiently for your answers.

            Ricardo G. H.

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