Free & open source software – “the greatest success of the 20th century”
Waldemar Pawlak, Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, saluted Free and Open Source Software (FLOSS) as the “greatest success of the 20th century” in a conference talk on 27 September 2011, according to OSOR. He added that FLOSS is based on very sound principles and can provide solutions to some of the problems of civilisation which we will face in the 21st century.
According to Mr Pawlak, FLOSS is an example of how the free and open exchange of ideas has created a number of products that have changed the world. In FLOSS he sees the desire for co-operation between people, which in many cases constitutes a synthesis of diverging inspirations and ideas, thus leading to the creation of ground-breaking solutions and projects. Among those he mentioned were the Linux operating system and the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia.
He also gave examples of how FLOSS applications had been used in Poland. The website of his own ministry, the Ministry of Economy, runs on the free and open-source Drupal content management system. The Ministry’s system of reporting the parliamentary questions by Members of Parliament and information management is built on MediaWiki. Its management and organisation of group work is implemented using the PHProjekt web application and the server tools used are based on Linux and Ubuntu.
Another Polish institution that uses solutions based on FLOSS is the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Its online trading platform has been built using tools such as Linux, the scripting language PHP and the PostgreSQL database.
The Deputy Prime Minister stressed that open source solutions could achieve widespread use at every level in the public sector and at the same time provide a fully professional operation. However, the main barrier to the implementation of these solutions is that people are used to using commercial solutions and there is a lack of willingness to make the effort to learn about other products. This is despite the fact that commercial products have greater exposure to viruses and have more limited program ownership rights (thus preventing the products to be adapted to the user’s own specific needs).
Mr Pawlak said that in the future the government should recommend and promote FLOSS principles and solutions, and present good examples of implementations. This would encourage major changes at lower levels of government, such as local authorities, which are still dominated by ignorance and fear about the safety and reliability of solutions based on FLOSS (does this sound familiar? Ed.). It is also very important to support open source initiatives, he said, by providing special programmes and grants at national and European levels. Activities which should be supported include platforms to promote innovation and collaboration (such as the internet platform Spinacz), research and development centres, and academic entrepreneurship.
Waldemar Pawlak’s lecture took place at Warsaw Polytechnic as part of a conference organised by the Polish Foundation for Free and Open Source Software (FWiOO). It was entitled ‘The Role of Open Source Software in the innovation economy’.
Note: The original Polish article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Licence.