Centre for Internet & Society
Software Freedom Day: The Importance of Free and Open Source Software

Software Freedom Day, Image by DNA

Software Freedom Day (SFD) on September 17 celebrates the liberty that free and open software and the philosophy of freedom brings into people’s lives. When SFD was started in 2004, only 12 teams from different places joined. It grew to a whooping 1000 by 2010 across the world. Explaining the aim of the celebration, SFD’s official website says,

The article was published by DNA on September 17, 2016.

Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business — in short, everywhere! The non-profit organisation Software Freedom International coordinates SFD at a global level, providing support, giveaways and a point of collaboration, but volunteer teams around the world organise the local SFD events to impact their own communities.

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

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. Adopted by noted software freedom advocate Richard Stallman in 1983, the free software has many names — libre software, freedom-respecting software and software libre are some of them. As defined by the Free Software Foundation, one of the early advocates of software freedom, free software allows users not just to use the software with complete freedom, but to 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 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 educational-advocacy organisation 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 organisations 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 it provides the liberty to users from [proprietary software developers’] unjust power. SFD encourages everyone to gather in their own cities, educate people around them about free software, promote on social media (with the hashtag #SFD2016 this year), even hacking with free software, organising hackathons, running free software installation camps, and even going creative with flying a drone running free software!

From South Asia, there are 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 organisational 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 an open data portal at data.gov.in portal, initiated a new policy to adopt open source software, and asked vendors to include open source software applications while making requests for proposals. Similarly, several free and open source communities and organisations 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, that are operating from the subcontinent also promote free and open source software.

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 organisations.

“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 spent in purchasing proprietary software.

A large amount of money of the government can be saved if it uses open source software in different IT sectors of government offices and others sectors, because government is providing computers to all educational institutes 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.

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