[fosscom] 4th July meeting

parminder at itforchange.net parminder at itforchange.net
Wed Jul 1 21:57:43 PDT 2009

Hi All

As we discuss the issue of wider adoption of FOSS and its integration into
policy frameworks, which I understand will dominate the meeting, I think
we need to also deliberate upon our linkages to broader movements for
social justice and equity. That is where our commitment to FOSS comes
from. However, this connection is really not very clear in the minds of
most influential actors in social change and social development arena. It
is important that we make this connection clear and keep delving on it  if
we have to mainstream the FOSS movement, and make it as the anchor and
trigger for a larger technology governance paradigm that maximizes the
opportunity of digital technologies for progressive social objectives.

We need to orient our efforts – theoretical and strategic – from a equity
and social justice vantage that alone will give us the needed collective
strength to effect real change. We need at the first level to show how,
especially in the emerging social paradigm (information society, digital
society or whatever, but some clear points of disruptive social change are
obvious here), equity and social justice centrally depend on open
knowledge models. At the second level, then we connect to how the
'openness' of the underlying technology model or paradigm is central to
preserving the required openness of our knowledge models. Accordingly, we
recognize and engage actors working on 'open knowledge paradigms' as our
closest allies, and also connect directly to the wider social justice
movement. (One does recognize that open technology models go beyond just
knowledge sharing to shaping the very 'associational' social possibilities
of the emerging times.)

I do feel that while there is a strong movement for FOSS, and that may be
largely driven by the desire of techies to have freedom of and vis-a-vis
their tools, there is not enough recognition of many new forms of
'closeness' of technology model which could be as or even more dangerous. 
One of the most amusing thing I have read in recent times is when
Microsoft claimed that they are really more open than Google because
though their software is not free it is open unlike Google's which can be
free but it  comes with tied-in applications. Well, we agree Microsoft is
evil but what about Google. This is not introducing new agendas. This is
seeking the ethical/ ideological basis of our collective work, which can
both inspire us and earn us the needed alliances in the wider social
justice movement. I continue to be surprised how there is hardly any
discussion and action on the way mobile companies are slowly but surely
killing the 'openness' of the Internet (GPRS services blocking VoIP). Is
this issue very different from seeking openness in the software space. I
dont think it is; while one does recognize the need to focus our energies
on narrow segments of the very broad 'open technology' issue. However, not
ourselves 'missing the woods' is important if we have to make others see
that what we are doing is not merely a technical matter and a subject of
'technical policies' (I assure you, thats how 'they' see it) but as much
broader and vital public policy issues with a defining impact on how equal
and socially just our societies will be in the near future. Only when we
can convince a larger constellation of actors that a new ICT policy/
governance paradigm today is such a key public policy issue and show what
its social implications are can we consider having achieved some success.
At present, I think the FOSS and 'open ICT' movement has almost entirely
failed in doing this. As a first step for this we should be able to
develop an appropriate vocabulary and models of ICT governance whose
points of departure  are not technical but arise from accepted notions of
social equity and public policy.  This issue IMHO should also engage the
attention of the meeting.

Thanks and look forward to the meeting.


(I am Guru's colleague at IT for Change)

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