Below are some political arguments for FOSS I came up with a while ago. Comments most welcome
– Reducing the Trade Deficit – something like 3/4 of the Australian trade deficit is ICT related and about 10% of that is proprietary software costs. We can cut this 10% significantly by using Open Source technologies as they are very services based rather than licence based, which means money spent on FOSS technologies is investment into the local ICT industry. It is also useful for local business growth (below) and thus means a better local services delivery capability and more money invested into local industry growth. Brazil is a great case study of a country turning around a $1.4b ICT software import economy to a $2.4b export economy.
– Local business growth – Open Source provides a low cost and highly scalable set of solutions to small new businesses, meaning they can hit the market quicker and harder than they would but delivering on top of proprietary software. Also for local software houses, building on top of Open Source and leveraging Open Source methodologies can cut the cost to go to market and build on top of in many cases an already existing developer and test base.
– Growing the local economy – Open Source is booming in Australia, and we have more Open Source developers per capita in this country than anywhere else in the world, a strong user and business community, and a comprehensive Government document on Open Source. Open Source is a ticket to growing the local ICT economy and leading Australia to be thought leaders in ICT globally. We can be the link between the East and the West in ICT, and drive new innovations resulting in a lowered trade deficit, and stronger local ecomony.
– Reducing the Digital Divide – In Australia, the gap between the connected and disconnected doesn’t just mean no access to google. It means no access to Government services, education, online business opportunities, skills creation and no access to the growing online knowledge economy. Open Source not only provides a cheap, reliable, hardware efficient and secure platform for addressing this, but as it is completely free, people can share software with their communities and the net result of rolling out Open Source community centres is compounded. India is a great case study where telecentres are being rolled out in order to address the growing Digital Divide gap, and to ensure a higher skilled, and higher employed population.
– Empowering the education system and access to online opportunities – Open Source in schools not only provides the benefits already mentioned, but it empowers teachers and students to learn together with free learning and teaching tools, and many high quality online teaching applications are available for improving education delivery, particularly in remote and rural Australia. Also low cost computers can be used as thin clients using Open Source to ensure long life of purchased or second hand computers and easy administration. We can learn from examples like in Extremadura, Spain, where 80,000 Linux computers were rolled out bringing the ratio of computers to kids in the public school system up to 1:2. In Australia we are no where near this figure.
– Reducing the technology waste, and impact on the environment – Repurposing computers from the public and private sector into disadvantaged areas and schools is an excellent way to cut down on unnecessary waste, and Linux runs effectively and efficiently on old hardware. Thin client software
is built into Linux which means that even very old hardware can be used to deliver fast and useful systems to the education sector for very low cost. Already we have such schemes in Australia such as IT Share, Bettong, ComputerAngels, Computerbank, and many more who already do this work.
A stronger Government push to these schemes will rapidly address the opportunity gap existing today in our education system, in poorer and remote areas, as well as addressing the environmental impact of technology waste. It will also help to grow a strong local ICT industry that is self-sustaining and contributing to the net wealth of this country, rather than to its deficit.