Centre for Internet & Society
It's September, and That Means It's Time for Software Freedom Day

Over a hundred registered events across the world for Software Freedom Day 2016. Screenshot from SFD website

Software Freedom Day (SFD), which celebrates the use of free and open software, is just around the corner on September 17. When the day first started in 2004, only 12 teams from different places joined, but it has since grown to include hundreds registered events around the world, depending on the year.

The article was published by Global Voices on September 17, 2016.

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 promoted by people like Richard Stallman who argue that free software is all about the freedom and not necessarily free of cost but provides the liberty to users from proprietary software developers’ power and influence.

SFD encourages everyone to gather in their own cities (here's a map of places where SFD is organized this year), educate people around them about free software, and promote the cause on social media (with the hashtag #SFD2016 this year). There's also hackathons (hacking free software to modify the code and create what one wants to have in it), running free software installation camps, and even going creative with flying a drone running free software.

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, 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. “Open source” was coined as an alternative to free software in 1998 by 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.

From South Asia, there are 13 celebratory events in India, eight in Nepal, one in Bangladesh and four in Sri Lanka.

South Asian countries have seen adoption of both free software and open source software by individuals, organizations and 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 to promote and grow the free software movement in India.

The Indian government has launched an open data portal at data.gov.in portal for sharing large datasets like the census data under free licenses. The government's new policy emphasizes on adopting open source software. Moreover government's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology asked vendors to include open source software applications while making requests for proposals.

Similarly, there are several free and open source communities and organizations operating from the subcontinent, like Mozilla India, Wikimedia India, the Centre for Internet and Society, Open Knowledge India, Mozilla Bangladesh, Wikimedia Bangladesh, Bangladesh Open Source Network, Open Knowledge Bangladesh, Mozilla Nepal, Wikimedians of Nepal, Open Knowledge Nepal, Wikimedia Community User Group Pakistan, and the Lanka Software Foundation in Sri Lanka.

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 a 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.
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