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rms writes: measures governments can use to promote free software

Richard StallmanRichard Stallman (pictured), also known as rms, the originator of the free software movement, has posted an article suggesting policies for a strong and firm effort to promote free software within the state, and to lead the rest of the country towards software freedom.

Richard’s article makes some very pertinent points in respect of the state’s own use of software. Here’s one that should be read very carefully by UK central and local government bodies concerning their own use of IT:

The state needs to insist on free software in its own computing for the sake of its computational sovereignty (the state’s control over its own computing). All users deserve control over their computing, but the state has a responsibility to the people to maintain control over the computing it does on their behalf. Most government activities now depend on computing, and its control over those activities depends on its control over that computing. Losing this control in an agency whose mission is critical undermines national security.

Moving state agencies to free software can also provide secondary benefits, such as saving money and encouraging local software support businesses.

A further critical is made by rms concerning the use of software in education:

Educational activities, or at least those of state entities, must teach only free software (thus, they should never lead students to use a non-free program), and should teach the civic reasons for insisting on free software. To teach a non-free program is to teach dependence, which is contrary to the mission of the school.

On this point, we’re please to note that Education Secretary Michael Gove recently made changes to the schools ICT curriculum (news passim).

Further points of note are the use by state bodies of file formats that are free and open and that any software developed by state agencies with public money should be released as free software, as well as advice on intellectual property matters.

Since rms is probably light years ahead of most bureaucrats and politicians in his thinking, we strongly recommend they read rms’ original article in full. 🙂