Monday, October 24, 2005

Open Source & ICT & Values

I am a member of the bytesforall email list, a fairly academic discussion of ICT for developing countries. There was a recent debate about open source vs. Proprietary software that offered a couple interesting thoughts.

First, I've never seen a moderator like Frederick Noronha, who wrote a fantastic synthesis of the debate. Makes me happy to be on the list.

Second, he had nice things to say about me. :)

Most importantly, Richard Stallman has a quote I think we need to think seriously about in the nonprofit sector.

"The choice between free (freedom-respecting) and proprietary
(user-subjugating) software is not a technical choice. It is
an ethical and political issue about people's freedom. To be
neutral on issues that merely concern technology is fine. To
be neutral on ethical and political issues about freedom is
nothing to be proud of."
In the commercial world, software leads to efficiency, which leads to profits. Profits are kind of like software (IMHO)... they have no moral or ethical basis. It is neither moral or immoral to earn a profit.

In the nonprofit world, software leads to efficiency, which leads to organizations capable of doing more good. Doing good is in and of itself a moral and ethical issue.

When we look at open source in the nonprofit sector, I think it is important to at least acknowledge the values issue... why would I support proprietary software solutions that limit the number of nonprofits that can increase their efficiency and do good?

No comments: