How we celebrated Software Freedom Day

Software Freedom Day celebration in Bengaluru, India in 2016. (Nima Lama, CC-BY-SA 4.0)

What are FOSS, Free Software, Open Source, and FLOSS?

Adopted by noted software freedom advocate Richard Stallman in 1983, free software has many names — free and open source software (FOSS or F/OSS), and Free/Libre and Open-Source Software (FLOSS) are umbrella terms that are used to include both free software and open source software. As defined by the Free Software Foundation — one of the early advocates of software freedom — free software allows users to not only use the software with complete freedom, but also study, modify, and distribute the software and any adapted versions, in both commercial and noncommercial form. The distribution of the software for commercial and noncommercial form however depends on the particular license the software is released under. The Creative Commons licenses have recommendations for a wide array of free licenses that one can choose for the software-related documentations and any creative work they create. Similarly, there are several different open licenses for software and many other works that are related to software development. “Open Source” was coined as an alternative to free software in 1998 by an educational-advocacy organization Open Source Initiative. Open source software is generally created collaboratively, made available with its source code, and it provides the user rights to study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose.

Supported by several global organizations like Google, Canonical, Free Software Foundation, Joomla, Creative Commons and Linux Journal, Software Freedom Day draws its inspiration from the philosophy that was grown by people like Richard Stallman who argues that free software is all about the freedom and not necessarily free of cost but provides the liberty to users from [proprietary software developers’] unjust power. SFD encouraged everyone to gather in their own cities (map of places where SFD was organized this year) to: educate people around them about free software, promote it on social media (with the hashtag #SFD2016 this year), hacking with free software, organizing hackathons, running free software installation camps, and even going creative with flying a drone running free software!

In South Asia, there were 13 celebratory events in India, 8 in Nepal, 1 in Bangladesh and 4 in Sri Lanka.

South Asian countries have seen adoption of both free software and open source software, in both individual and organizational level and by the government. The Free Software Movement of India was founded in Bengaluru, India in 2010 to act as a national coalition of several regional chapters working for promoting and growing the free software movement in India. The Indian government has launched the open data portal at data.gov.in, initiated a new policy to adopt open source software, and asked vendors to include open source software applications while making requests for proposals. Similarly, there are many free and open source communities and organizations that are operating from the subcontinent also promote free and open source software like Mozilla India, Wikimedia India, Centre for Internet and Society, Open Knowledge India in India, Mozilla Bangladesh, Wikimedia Bangladesh, Bangladesh Open Source Network, Open Knowledge Bangladesh in Bangladesh, Mozilla Nepal, Wikimedians of Nepal and Open Knowledge Nepal in Nepal, Wikimedia Community User Group Pakistan in Pakistan, Lanka Software Foundation in Sri Lanka.

We promote open source and open web technologies in the country. We are open to associate/work with existing open source or other community-run, public benefit organizations.

“Internet By The People, Internet For The People” (from Mozilla India wiki)

Mohammad Jahangir Alam, a lecturer from Southern University Bangladesh argues in a research paper that the use of open source software can help the government save enormous amount of money that are spent in purchasing proprietary software,

A Large amount of money of government can be saved if the government uses open source software in different IT sectors of government offices and others sectors, Because government is providing computer to all educational institute from school to university level and they are using proprietary software. For this reason government is to expend a large amount of many* for buying proprietary software to run the computers. Another one is government paying significant amount of money to the different vendors for buying different types of software to implement e-Governance project. So, the Government can use open source software for implanting projects to minimize cost of the projects.

This year, a small group of six of us gathered to celebrate SFD in Bengaluru. The group consisted of FOSS contributors from communities such as Mozilla, Wikimedia, Mediawiki, Open Street Map (OSM), and users of FOSS solutions. Each participant shared their own stories of how they got connected with FOSS and what component it plays in their day-to-day life — from how a father tries to introduce his son to open source software while migrating from proprietary to open source back and forth as his job demands so, to an OSM contributor who truly believes that large scale contributions to open source can make the software as robust as proprietary ones and even better because of the freedom that lie in it. The participants bounced both technical and philosophical questions to each other to gauge the actual usage of FOSS in real life, and how as a society we are moving towards adopting openness. There is a great disconnect in communicating widely about the work that many Indian FOSS and other free knowledge communities are doing, agreed all the participants. So they planned to meet more regularly and try to connect more people using social media and chat groups so that these interactions shape into an annual event to bring all open communities under one roof.

Check more ideas for celebrating Software Freedom Day, and a few more here.