Want To Join the World Trade Organization? Dump Microsoft Go With Linux

Posted by tadelst on Aug 24, 2005 6:04 AM EDT
Lxer; By Tom Adelstein
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When Mark Shuttleworth asked for help in putting together a list of Government Projects for the Go Open Source Task Team conference to be held on August 22 & 23 for South Africa, he faciliated an unique database of best practices and brought to light needs of developing countries.

When you click on the link for the Go Open Source web site you are greeted with a pleasant looking page and a no-nonsense message:

This wiki is to capture international best practice in government-led projects, using OSS, for contribution to the Go Open Source Task Team conference to be held on Monday and Tuesday. Background documentation for the conference include the Working Paper for delegates found at http://radian.co.za/fossconference/GOSS_TTC_workingpaper101.pdf. Working group discussion topics are planned in the Chairperson notes found at http://radian.co.za/fossconference/chairperson_notesv2.pdf

The following are the government departments expected to attend the conference. Please feel free to add projects for each of these departments under three headings:

1. Existing International projects that could be replicated in South Africa, or with which the South Africa departments could collaborate.

2. Existing South African free software projects related to that department that are currently underway.

3. Proposed or suggested projects that the department could undertake, and which would help build a global infrastructure for free software in government, and help to leverage free software to address specific issues in government.

Below that are many sections one could use to describe the workings of a government. The founders made it simple for people with differing interests to find content that would benefit them. Simply clicking on a category link puts one into areas like a Health Department, Revenue Services, Environmental Affairs and Tourism and so on.

As I made my first visit to the Wiki, I found a fairly empty website waiting for content. With about two days advanced notice, I wondered how the goals could be achieved. As the weekend began to vanish, people from various parts of planet earth started adding their evidence of Linux and open source making its way into governments from places as diverse as the Phillippines, Thailand, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Sweden to mention only a few . As Sunday began to turn into Monday, the conference had an A-list of Government applications. A friend remarked that he had always looked for a place that contained "this kind of material".

I liked hearing that because I did my share of posting to the Wiki. Now that the conference has ended, I'm hoping people will continue to feed the go-opensource.org Wiki with more examples of FOSS applications used in government. I know I will. Perhaps the taskforce could add an index and get more exposure for this content enabled web site project.

Some things I observed while posting and researching

Since I live in America and investigate the role of OSS in governments around the world, I'm aware that US citizens pay for the software used in the developing world. It's sort of like the "dumping" Japan used to do with electronics and automobiles.

Take Iran, for example. The entire Iranian ICT infrastructure is Microsoft. Yet, supposedly, no one in that country has ever paid for a single Microsoft license. I find that strange.

With so much software piracy in Iran, their ambitions to become members of the World Trade Organization seem hopeless. In case you did not know, software piracy is an issue the Bush administration can use to keep countries out of free trade agreements. So, Iran's only hope is to convert to OSS and get rid of its pirated infrastructure. See http://www.iosn.net/country/iran/news/ and specifically http://www.iol.co.za/index.php?set_id=1&click_id=115&art_id=qw109567728080B265.

If you don't visit that link, here's a excerpt:

According to Mohammad Sephery-Rad, the man in charge of the Islamic regime's computer systems, long-term political and security considerations have sparked a major initiative to make the switch.

"All the software in Iran is copied. There is no copyright law, so everybody uses Microsoft software freely," said the secretary of Iran's High Informatics Council.

"But we cannot continue like this much longer," he said.

The reason has nothing to do with the guilt of using pirated software (a cracked Windows XP CD costs the same as a blank CD), but more pragmatic considerations - not least because of the irony that Iran's information technology (IT) backbone is based on software from its arch-enemy, the United States.

Firstly, Iran is trying to gain entry into the World Trade Organisation (WTO), a step that would entail respect of international intellectual property laws.

"We would have to pay a lot of money," said Sephery-Rad, noting that most of the government's estimated one million personal computers (PCs) and the country's total of six to eight million computers were being run almost exclusively on the Windows platform.

Even users of pirated Windows software can download patches and updates, but as piracy control techniques improve that could change - meaning the Islamic regime's computers could be caught with their pants down.

Editor's Note: One would have to doubt Microsoft would stop letting the Iranians download patches and updates.

This situation is not unique to the Iranians. Any country trying to gain entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) faces the same dilema. And while a solution to their problem exists by simply implementing Linux and open source software in their national ICT infrastructure, the governments of those countries seem paralyzed from taking appropriate action.

I find it more than ironic that the Iranians consider the United States their "arch-enemy" and use Microsoft software. If I knew that Microsoft wanted me to use their software and it would keep me from gaining an economic advantage, I would drop it in a second. Take a lesson from the Chinese, get rid of your pirated, junky software and use Linux.

Here's one final thought about arch-enemies. Countries like Iran might want to try some simple logic. If you're using Microsoft software and it's keeping you out of the WTO, then perhaps you are in fact your own "worst" enemy. In other words, maybe you have no one else to blame but yourselves.

It makes me wonder if people really get that.

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Sharia law and software licensing roblimo 24 3,037 Aug 27, 2005 12:38 PM
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