For those of you who missed it, Francis Till from the NBR wrote an extensive article critiquing the Green position on OSS, and it was, to put it nicely completely full of shit. Frog had a good go trashing the arguments and a number of the comments on that post are very interesting as well. Also this post from Russell Brown makes some good rebuttal points.
But I want to add a couple of points.
Firstly, the stuff in Till’s article about the Green response to the Digital Strategy. A good friend of mine was involved with discussions with the government about the DS between the time the discussion document and the final document came out. While in a long and detailed meeting about a number of IT related issues, the topic of OSS was raised. My friend inquired as to why it wasn’t mentioned at all in the discussion document. What followed was a 15 minute discussion into the merits or otherwise of using OSS, the potential benefits to the country of a healthy OSS development community and the ethical questions about educating our chjildren within a MS only environment. Folllowing this discussion my friend said “so that was an interesting discussion, can you please answer my question, how come open source isn’t mentioned at all in the discussion document?” Needless to say, the officials were slightly embarrassed.
No wonder Nandor was slightly miffed that it still wasn’t mentioned in the final document. And so he should have been. I have had discussions with a number of other self-proclaimed geeks about what the future is for Aotearoa in regards to IT and software in particular. As Frog mentioned in the response to Till’s article, there are a number of countries around the world embracing OSS, for many reasons. Yet our Government has decided for us that we’re not even going to talk about it? I doubt that if we had a major nationwide discussion about these issues that the people of this country would decide to banish Microsoft from our shores but we should be allowed to have some discussion about it. So why aren’t we?
Well, I don’t know exactly what goes on behind closed doors in Ministerial offices and policy setting meetings in government departments but I do know that Microsoft has spent a shit load of money convincing our government that they are their friends and they have nothing to fear. The International Head of Government Relations for MS has been here at least once in the last couple of years, they employ one of the best (evilest) PR companies in the country to manage their image here. I would HATE to think how much the GSSP is costing them. Apparently, the people here working on that project (giving our SIS access to the source code of MS products including the Windows operating system, to allay any fears about security flaws) get free unlimited access to Redmond engineers. Yip, they can get on a plane and fly over and wander in and ask any question they want!
So what do the Ministers think? I’ve been following the questions in the House over the last term and I can say there is two Ministers who appear to be knowledgable on these issues; David Cunliffe and Trevor Mallard. Cunliffe is very receptive to OSS and certainly displays a bit of imagination when it comes to trying innovative approaches to conventional problems. Mallard on the other hand seems to be well and truly in the pockets of Microsoft. Any question asked of Mallard about these issues when he was Minister of Education was met with a snarky answer and a few pom poms thrown around for Microsft, which makes me wonder what went on in during the negotiations for the Microsoft schools agreement…
But back to Till’s article, what I don’t get is how people who appear to be right-wing capitalists are often so supportive of the way Microsoft operates? I thought that all of the people who are in favour of Free Trade and against barriers would be appalled at the way MS does their business. I guess I just don’t get capitalism…
But I would like to thank Till for having the courage to engage with what the Greens say about IT. We are constantly accussed of being luddites but checking the technologoical knowledge and ability of those within the Green movement and compared to those in other parties, I fail to see how those arguments hold any water. I think the Green visions on technology futures are far more exciting and visionary than anything that you see coming out of any other parties, most of whom fail to see how these issues are political and seem to leave it to the big corporates to dictate our futures for us.
Finally, there are a couple of comments on the frogblog about the software used by the Greens. Can I just say that I was privvy to an internal discussion about allowing the Greens in the Parliamentary Office to use Firefox. It took three months and a whole lot of hoohah to get permission to use a far superior product than Explorer. They eventually won and have been enjoying Firefox ever since! But as for using other OSS products like Open Office, I think the battle will be a lot harder. In the meantime, MPs can use whatever they want on their laptops. I know Nandor was running Mandrake and I think Metiria is currently using Ubuntu. As for me, I’m using a Mac (OSX), use Firefox browser, Thunderbird email and VLC media player. I use my computer mostly for video editing so I’m using Final Cut and iMovie mostly (until I can afford an upgrade) and I also use iTunes and a few game programs. The only MS branded product I use is MSN Messenger but that’s because my friends won’t stop using it grrr.