Green MP lauds Euro plan for ‘free’ govt software

Nandor Tanczos sees a recent European Green Party statement in strong support of open source software as a useful template for its IT policy.

Nandor Tanczos sees a recent European Green Party statement in strong support of open source software as a useful template for its IT policy.

The Green Party’s IT spokesman wants to see open source pushed in an even wider arena in the next world party congress, later this year.

Perhaps the most controversial point of the European party’s five policy guidelines is that the party “demand that source code of software whose development is financed through public funds be distributed under appropriate open source licences”.

The initiative comes as local IT-vendor organisation Itanz is making recommendations to the New Zealand government for streamlining the commercialisation of software originally developed for the use of government agencies.

“Obviously there are commercial benefits in the export of government software,” says Tanczos, “but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t still be a profit in [distributing] it in the open source way; through further development and support, for example.”

He was scheduled to meet Itanz representatives last week, as part of the process of refining the Greens’ IT policy.

The European party, Tanczos says, “is expressing concern around the way knowledge has been commercialised”. The commercial motive, he says, distorts the natural evolution and flow of knowledge by “channelling it in particular ways [conducive to more profit]. It’s like GE [genetic engineering] in that respect,” he says.

The European Greens’ other “sustainable” IT principles are to:

  • recommend promotion and introduction of open source software in government agencies and public administrations “as a starting point to enforce open standards and ... prevent the creation of monopolies”

  • recommend the use of open source software to reduce the “digital divide”

  • require that public-sector procurement give equal opportunity to open source and proprietary solutions

  • recommend use of free or open source software within the education system.
The statement “steps back and asks us to take a look at where we are going with technology”, Tanczos says, “towards information sharing or towards ownership by commercial entities. I’m very supportive of their thinking.” He plans to draw the attention of the world Greens meeting, in Africa, to the European statement, “and see if we can get it adopted more widely than just Europe”.

The full policy, adopted at the party congress in Rome on February 20-22, can be read here.

Tanczos’s policy plans coincide with the MP issuing a media statement complimenting retail chain Dick Smith Electronics on the sale locally of PCs without an operating system.

“It is about time someone took the initiative and helped New Zealanders break free from the Microsoft stranglehold,” he says. “I encourage anyone who is frustrated at the inflexibility of proprietary operating systems to try something different.

“The idea of using an open source operating system will be new to some, but there are Linux users’ groups all over the country that are ready to show you how to use this healthy alternative.” He directs aspiring experimenters to the New Zealand Open Source Society for help.

“It will be great to see Dick Smith selling the soon-to-be-commercially-released Linux 2.6 platform,” Tanczos says. “I use Mandrake on my laptop and it is not that different to Windows, except that I have much more control.

“It is time the New Zealand government encouraged diversity and systems security by following the lead of other high-tech countries like Japan in investing in the open source software industry.”

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