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Announcements GNU is Not Unix

eGovOS 3 Announced 102

A reader writes:"German Minister Otto Schily and at least 2 other ministers will be keynoting at EGOVOS 3: Open Standards and Libre Software in Government conference in Paris, France on November 24-26, 2003. EGOVOS 3 will bring together the largest number ever of high level government officials working in Open Source and Free Software. In addition to the national ministers, 15 senior politicians, government IT officials and representatives from the European Commission, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama and the US will being making presentations." You will find general registration is open - free, but limited seating. Additionally, press registration is open as well. I normally don't post many conference announcements, but this one should have significant impact on governmental decisions around Free/Libre/Open/Whatever Software.
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eGovOS 3 Announced

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  • Paradox (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    How can software be free if its use is mandated by a government?
    • Re:Paradox (Score:3, Interesting)

      How can software be free if its use is mandated by a government?

      As long as they follow the GPL, why should this be a problem? They are only using it same as everybody else, they are not assuming control of it.

      You might as well ask, How can air be free if its use is mandated by a government?

    • I think the governments involved are more interested in using Open source/Free software rather than mandating it to anyone. They suffer the shortcomings of certain commercial software as much as anyone...
    • The government might "mandate" its use for itselft / its departments / offices / agencies, just like a big corporation might. They certainly won't mandate the use of open software for private enterprises. Now open standards might be a different issue there.

      Anyway, what does that have to do with it being free software? Even if some "rogue state" decided to mandate the use of a particular software for its entire population, that would not change anything about how free or not that software is... so i don't r
      • If it was mandated for the entire population, it would indeed change how free the software is, I believe.

        Think of the four freedoms [gnu.org] that Free Software offers you:-

        # The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
        # The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
        # The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
        # The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements
        • Now I don't think any mandated software offers you the freedom to run. What's free about it if you HAVE to run it?

          Erm, mandating use of a piece of software does not deny you the freedom to run it.

          Besides, I am not sure why you are so upset about this anyway. Why is it so much better when everyone is forced to run Windows without a choice, eh?

          • Erm, mandating use of a piece of software does not deny you the freedom to run it. Could you not argue that freedom to run also extends to the freedom to NOT run it? Besides, I am not sure why you are so upset about this anyway. Why is it so much better when everyone is forced to run Windows without a choice, eh? Forcing anyone to use anything is inherently wrong, IMO.
    • ... on technology.

      I can tell you that the Europeans will not interpret "Free" in the same way as the FSF and the US are trying to. "Freedom" as it is talked about in the US really is a big US concept, the rest of the world generally fails to see what the big issue is for us.

      In EC terms "free" (as in free software) is being written into policy as meaning "free of the American software economy". OSS is being used as a way to allow European nations to "freely" built their own IT industries that will compete
    • The government could, for example, mandate that only software that fulfills certain requirements may be used in its institutions. Such requirements might be open file formats, full access to source code, etc.

      This would be in no conflict with the ideas of free software or free markets.

  • by pork_spies ( 659663 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:14AM (#7002383)
    Governments have the power and resources to train thousands of admins to hack free software systems, and they could save millions by not buying you-know-who's licences. So, I hope this goes well.
    • and they could save millions by not buying you-know-who's licences

      Don't be afraid, just use his name: Voldemort

  • by MosesJones ( 55544 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:16AM (#7002384) Homepage
    Previous sponsors of EGOVOS have included UNDP, the World Bank, IBM, Oracle, Sun, Red Hat, and Dell as well as government associations and universities.

    Remember folks, when people talk about Open Software and standards they are not talking about employing a bunch of bearded hackers with l33t Linux skills. They are talking about hiring the big boys, who in many ways just happen to be supporting this movement because it fits their business and selling models.

    This is great to see, but lets not pretend that it isn't the big boys who are making sure the goverments play with Open Source toys.

    • Does it really matter if a "A bearded hacker with l33t Linux skills" or a non-US citizen or for that matter a highly paid professional employed by a fortune 50 corporation, create the code; as long as it's open and free (as in speech).

      Addressing another comment:

      Does it matter what the motives are (i.e. political) that create open and free software as long as it is truly free?

      K.V.: Sorry about the Semicolon...

    • This is great to see, but lets not pretend that it isn't the big boys who are making sure the goverments play with Open Source toys.

      Why do you assume this?

      I know for a fact that quite a number of the projects in Europe that are going to be talked about were driven by the local governments, not by vendors. In the USA it is a common assumption that government employees = dumb, but that isn't so true in Europe where in many countries government jobs are well paid and respected, and so attract good people.
      • Government folks are the same as those at many companies.

        Management (Bush, Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, CIA, FBI, NASA, ... DoD) causes the problems. About every two out of three (sometimes 3 of 3) managers are policy and politics addicts that excel at developing (space shuttle, Enron, Iraq, ...) failure.

        There are many (60%, or better) very good worker-bees, pack-mules, Troops, ... in government service and the USA work-place, but who else can be blamed for failures by management.

        US politicians and management lov
  • Anyone know if Microsoft reps will be on hand to provide a counter-argument? I wouldn't be surprised -- while this group is all for free software, some scare tactics to try to sell licenses would be likely, considering the group ultimately decides what millions of users will run.
    • Or even better, maybe SCO will show up and start encouraging people to pay for licenses.
    • What's more interestimg to me is Microsofts opinion on all major (and some smaller) German parties announcing to switch all government computers to Linux in they are elected (as seen in the 2002 elections).

      Heh, maybe they'll just make all MS products Europe incompatible.
      The document you are trying to open is from Europe. Word does not support European documents. If you need to open this document, ask the document's creator to move to the USA and save the document again.
  • by blindcoder ( 606653 ) <slashdot@wegwerf.anderdonau.de> on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:18AM (#7002389) Homepage
    So, OTOH german politicians want SW-Patents, but OTOH they talk at Free Software Conferences... hmm...
    • by imsabbel ( 611519 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:49AM (#7002481)
      Politicans dont have any opinion on software patents here in Germany. But there is high unemployment and the (mostly american) software companies are making claims that software patens will help economy, create jobs, enlarge you penis,... (you get the idea).

      So Politicians are in a situation where press and opposition grabs these claims and claim they arent doing anything against recession.

      Until now, most simply choose to support the patents because they heard only voices supporting them. But the latest protest seem to have changed some opinions.
      • Hmm...that's a way too see it... "Blind Actionism"..
        "WE did something!" - "But did you do the RIGHT thing?"
        Well, let's hope today's Demo in Munich helps to tell them that they're not.
        I know that I'll be there today!

  • by Dancin_Santa ( 265275 ) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:19AM (#7002393) Journal
    I have no doubt that the proliferation of Free Software as a result of government promotion of it will result in a virtual awakening of people's minds to the problems that face everyone. The essential human trait is desire for liberty. Second to this is desire for security. Unfortunately these two desires are often mutually exclusive.

    They complement each other when one realizes the in Freedom lies the ability to protect ones self. To build a wall of security, if you will. However, this is difficult and treacherous as one person's wall of security is hardly a match for the evils wanting to penetrate it.

    So the person turns to government, an amalgamation of people dedicated to the mutual protection of each other. Security becomes an easier thing to maintain, but at the cost of individual Freedom. Enjoining any social contract means losing some Freedom.

    So we have now governments interested in promoting Free Software. It is interesting because Free Software doesn't require promotion. All it requires is that it exist Freely and it will be shared with others who wish to use it.

    So what sorts of benefits do the governments see in Free Software? No doubt they see the benefits that any user sees, Freedom to interact as an individual with a piece of Free Software. But from the point of view of Free Software, there are hazards.

    The government is answerable to no one, especially inanimate objects like Free Software. There exists no method of redressing any violation of the Freedom of the Free Software. In essence, we are throwing the Software to the lions and hoping for the best.

    I'm all for the proliferation of Free Software, but I think it is important to realize that government is the antithesis of Freedom. It exists only to usurp Freedom. Care must be taken to see that Free Software is not abused by governments.
    • I think you misunderstand the governmental concept of promoting free software. It doesn't mean promoting it to you and me in the street - it means promoting it to other authorities who are wavering indecisively.

      Despite what you may have heard, in the UK at least, there's very little one authority can do to control/influence another. They all have very clearly defined powers and rights. If Nottingham County Council adopts Linux on the desktop, there's still absolutely no reason for Shropshire County Council

    • On the other hand, "the government," at least as it has been involved previously in software development, was the original purveyor of "free software." Everything produced by the government that isn't classified is part of the public domain, freely available for use by everyone. Unfortunately, it has been available without any protection against being co-opted by proprietary interests, resulting in a lot of government code being buried in commercial products and never seeing free use again.

      Maybe this is
    • The government is answerable to no one [...] In essence, we are throwing the Software to the lions and hoping for the best.

      Well, what's to stop them from just TAKING Free Software and using it then, if they are so evil and so omnipotent? What are you going to do about it apart from saying that "we must be vigilant"? Do you propose we save Free Software by banning, for instance, governments from using it, or what?

      Free Software are there to be used by anyone, that is the defenition of free. Governments are
    • Maybe where you live, but I live in a democracy where the government is answerable to the people. Not only on elections, but in the daily running of the government there are zillions of checks and balances.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        No matter what country you live in, I highly doubt the government is answerable to anyone but the military.
      • Not even knowing where you live I think it's safe to say:
        "your government is corrupt, does not have your or lour loved ones best interest in mind, and most participants are engaged in a two pronged effort to be reelected and to move as much money as possible from the public trust to their or their cronies pockets."
        Statistically I'd have a more than even chance of being right!

        Checks and balances exist to be broken

        Democracy isn't necessarily the best form of government.

    • "The essential human trait is desire for liberty. Second to this is desire for security. Unfortunately these two desires are often mutually exclusive."

      Really? I would have thought food, shelter etc. were a little bit higher up on the list.
    • The argument presented here is a typical libertarian critique of collectivism, but it leaves out an essential issue: that there are positive freedoms as well as negative freedoms.

      In my country, as a result of collective action I have a right to healthcare at the point of need, my children have a right to be educated, if I lose my job I have the right to some financial assistance. All of these things enhance and not diminish my freedom.

      Similarly, if government action were to, say, enforce an open fomat for
  • by Talthane ( 699885 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:34AM (#7002436)

    disclaimer: UK-only view below, I do not speak for the rest of the EU

    Government would be an ideal environment for open source development, because it's a highly collaborative world. Authorities get together all the time, online and off, to share information and work in partnerships. They're far, far better at collaboration than private companies - not least because of limited resources.

    What stops government being open source entirely, in the UK at least, is that open source applications for government don't exist. Do a search for 'government' on SourceForge and you get back less than four active projects, mostly unsuitable for Europe. I know, I've looked. Authorities need systems that can do things like council tax, sundry debtor tracking, payroll, personnel, time recording, electoral registration, development control, building control, licensing, contract administration, GIS, records management, benefits claims, cost of works, invoicing, BACS, asset management, inventory management, architectural works, flexitime monitoring, enforcement notices recording, dog warden control, callout control, grant awarding and tracking, sampling storage and results monitoring and so on. That's an extract from one authority I worked for, and it only employs 300 people. Local government is hugely multifunctional.

    The only OSS work I know in that list is in the area of GIS and it's not that advanced. I'd be happy to be proven wrong. Believe it or not, authorities don't want x300 PHP/MySQL content management systems or yet another webserver, which is what SourceForge consists of on a bad day.

    If open source does gain a bigger foothold in government, it'll only be on the desktop and in OpenOffice. Maybe Apache. But it'll never displace proprietary systems from government unless it expands beyond the developer-centric to include the kind of back office systems we use here. I think after that little list it'll come to a screeching halt due to lack of apps.

    Oh, and in the UK we emphatically do not call it Libre Software. Methinks that's the French up to their linguistic nationalism again. It's continental Europe that doesn't call it free software - those of us from the country that gave the world English actually use the English word :-)

    • I say "libre" from time to time, and speak what I call English.

      I agree with the comment about the lack of large aplications for government and local government mentioned but I feel more optimistic about it.

      In terms of progression through classes of program, an idea that is through and through the Open Source/FLOSS literature, I'd say that governmental systems come late after the operating systems and backend systems, and after desktops.

      I'd also say that a great deal of what a local government does is

    • The only OSS work I know in that list is in the area of GIS

      OT and just out of interest, what OSS GIS apps are people in Government using? GRASS? I was under the impression that ArcInfo/View and MapInfo using (expensive) OS data was the norm?

    • Authorities need systems that can do things like council tax, sundry debtor tracking, payroll, personnel, ...
      I'm not working in your field, but I expect that the software authorities need is so specialized, that it is usually developed on demand (I assume, most software is developed on demand or in house, anyway). Therefore, it would be possible for a government, to pay developers to develop the software under a free license. It's just a matter of how the request for software development is formulated. U
    • What stops government being open source entirely, in the UK at least, is that open source applications for government don't exist.

      Not everywhere you need a customized applications. 90% of time I look over the counter I see MS Word or Excel open on the screen of the clerk.
      If you look over here [theregister.co.uk] or on my shameless plug [rastos.org], you'll see that saving money in on government level with OSS *is* possible.

    • 'Do a search for 'government' on SourceForge and you get back less than four active projects, mostly unsuitable for Europe. I know, I've looked. Authorities need systems that can do things like council tax, sundry debtor tracking, payroll, personnel, time recording, electoral registration, development control, building control, licensing, contract administration, GIS, records management, benefits claims, cost of works, invoicing, BACS, asset management, inventory management, ....'

      I agree that there is a d

      • After all, only the German government needs a tax tracking system that incorporates their rules and laws. Exactly, that is a very good reason, to use free software to reduce cost! Every government has different laws and rules, but the principles of these laws and rules are common in every country. Therefore, it is much more expensive, when each contry hires a different proprietary company to develop their own specific software, than to share the "common ground". Theirfore, the common ground can be (or in
    • "disclaimer: UK-only view below, I do not speak for the rest of the EU"

      Alistair Campbell? Tony Blair? DubbyaBush?

      I give up, who are you? ........

  • Politic (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Do you think the Germans and French would be so concerned about "Free" software if Microsoft were a German or French company? This is pure politics folks, nothing to be proud about here.
    • Note that the US is also present at the conference. Besides, which country was it again, where a convicted monopolist got away with a light slap on the wrist?
      • I've been slack lately; Did the EU ever really fine them or was that soemthing just in the news for a week or two?

        Otherwise I'm sure microsoft has business here, so the comment above would apply to EU as well!

    • Analogously...

      Do you think the North Americans would be so concerned about Microsoft if it were a German or French company? This is pure politics folks, nothing to be proud about here.

      The good/bad issue is not about politicians doing politics. It is about selecting the right/wrong policy.

      --
      And -- to quote Remco Campert -- politics is far important a matter to be left merely to politicians.
    • Possibly a valid point, but an equally valid response is to point out that Microsoft employs a large amount of people in Germany, and provides employment to a lot more indirectly working on their products.

      The govt also has to bear these people in mind, and there are certainly a large amount of them.

      Its not quite as straightforward as you make out.
    • Re:Politic (Score:3, Informative)

      by Frit Mock ( 708952 )
      Americans tend to see themselves in the center of the world ... look, the earth is not the center of the universe, as americans are not the center of the world, at least not reagarding Linux development and not with Linux users! Look here where the developers come from: http://www.debian.org/devel/developers.loc.en.htm l and look here, where Linux users live (compared to the toatal population of the country) http://counter.li.org/reports/short.php?orderby=us erdensity#table
    • Perhaps not. But the British would be even more concerned if MS was German or French!
  • Open Standards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ultraw ( 99206 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @06:46AM (#7002470) Homepage
    I hope they put quite some stress and effort in the "open standard" parts. I don't care which software is being used. The government will have a good reason why they take it (and I hope this reason is a mixture of cost, support, easy to use, scalability, lifetime,...). If it possible using Open Source, why not. If a product and support from a company are better, sorry, but you have to be reasonable (and that is MY tax money they are using :)).

    As long as the documents and data that are stored in the systems are stored in an easy accessible format, and not some closed standard, I'm a happy person. If the government want to switch software, they should be able to do so with little problems.

    Also, it's quite disturbing to notice (again and again) that you can download all the documents you need do something administrative, but find out that it is in the latest crappy MS DOC format which is unreadable/badly formatted by my word processor... I even got auto-reply mail with only a doc file attached.

    • > I hope they put quite some stress and effort in the "open standard" parts. I don't care which software is being used.

      That's fine for me and you, but look at it from the government's perspective. Don't you think it's silly for different (local) governments to collaborate in (software) development, build stuff for common use and then have the IP -- and thus the (taxpayer's money) -- go into some corporate sink?
      • Re:Open Standards (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ultraw ( 99206 )
        Well, if the software is build (designed, programmed, tested, debugged,...) by the government, with the aid of tax-money, then YES! OPEN SOFTWARE! NOW!. It was my money that made it happen...

        If they just take a part of the tax-money (which was intended for the running of the government) and go out and buy some licenses to make them do their job better/faster/..., then it should not necessarly be open source software. If possible, they should give preference to open software, and to software made in the cou
        • Re:Open Standards (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Koos Baster ( 625091 )
          >support local economy, like that, tax money is re-entering the economic system of the country/region

          I agree. However, a EU company is not forced (luckily) to invest the money it collects from IP into the EU or -- for that matter -- invest into innovation at all. If the company never "owned" the source code in the first place, a second company can pick up innovation where the first left off. This will benefit the product, make governments less reliable on a single vendor and benefit itself, its citizen
    • German government has indeed started a project on open document formats - IMHO a misguided project, they should rather work with the OASIS open office formats project. But it's certainly better than nothing.

      I don't like many things about the current german government, and especially Schily seems to have some serious issues with some aspects of the constitution like some basic civil rights, but one has to admit that their IT strategy is better than one would expect. At least if you don't ask about software

  • ...in the new economy that we strive to be the world's leading nation in IT and attempt doing so by using the most crappy american operating system we can lay hands on."--[can't remeber the german official who said that]
  • by 4of12 ( 97621 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @08:36AM (#7003142) Homepage Journal

    In addition to the national ministers, 15 senior politicians, government IT officials and representatives from the European Commission, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, Hungary, Belgium, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, Panama and the US will being making presentations.

    I like the sentiment of people coming together to agree upon free standards, free software.

    But another side of me remains skeptical that such a large group of politicians can form a meaningful consensus in finite time.

    Oh well, there's still probably some value in high level governmental IT people publicly expression support for this or that good free software feature. It will make it easier for their worker bees to openly justify that FOSS prototype project instead of hiding it in a dark corner of the server room.

  • by jtheory ( 626492 ) on Friday September 19, 2003 @09:49AM (#7003870) Homepage Journal
    This title is a disgrace. Why can't we let the title be completely in English?

    EGOVOS 3: Open Standards and Libre Software in Government

    Darn those French. As an American, I demand that this title eschew the admittedly useful distinction between the french words "libre" and "gratuit". The proper title should be:

    EGOVOS 3: Open Standards and Free (as in Speech, not as in Beer) Software in Government

    Thank you.

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