[Linux-aus] Help with a political approach to Open Source please :)

Pia Waugh greebo at pipka.org
Wed Oct 5 21:51:02 UTC 2005

Hi all,

Over the next 3-6 months I will be approaching several high profile state
and federal politicians  on behalf of Linux Australia to speak about the
social and economic reasons why Open Source should be on the Australian
political agenda. I've got a list of about 15 pollies to start, but if
anyone has particular suggestions or contacts, please email me off list. I
won't post them here but will certainly discuss them offlist with anyone
interested in helping making this advocacy stint successful. I have got
people from the main ministries of interest (education, ICT), from the four
main parties of interest (Liberal, Labor, Greens and Democrats), and it
would be ideal if anyone had personal contacts of use, or independents we
can approach.

I am looking at dedicating a serious amount of time to this over a long
period to ensure some success and longevity of the effort. My aim is to get
all the major parties talking about the hows of getting Open Source on the
political agenda, rather than the ifs.

Below are the main points I'm thinking of basing my approach on. I'd love
some feedback and fine tuning from you all as it will certainly be an
attempt to get Open Source out there to a tough audience, and having
something that is quite representative of our collective thoughts would be
great. This is a bit of a sounding board to get the message right between us
before taking it out there. After all, with a well polished message, we can
all write a letter or pick up a phone to our local and state members for
serioius impact :)

The basic approach is to explain briefly and show what Linux/Open Source is
(laptop demo, remove the fluffiness upfront before delving into the
interesting stuff), and then feed them some economic and social issues they
can address with Open Source. Then once we have them on board with the
positives, we can better communicate our concerns about the FTA and other
legal foo down the track. This means we can talk about the FTA to an open
audience that will have already got behind the opportunities and would by
then be needing to address the challenges.

Economic platforms:
        - Reducing the Trade Deficit - 2/3 of the Australian trade deficit
is ICT related. We can cut this significantly by use Open Source
technologies as they are very services based, and thus costly short and long
term licensing fees that usually only minimally support the local economy
are eliminated, leading to more local expenditure in the way of services. It
is also useful for local business growth (below) and thus means a better
local services delivery capability, and thus more money invested into local
industry growth. Brazil is a great case study of a country turning around a
$1.4b ICT import economy to a $2.4b export economy.

        - 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. (I need some more good arguments or a case study here,
suggestions please :)

Social platforms:
        - 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. 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.



Linux Australia                                         http://linux.org.au/
                      "What are we doing today brain?"
              "We're taking over the world like we always do."
                           - Pinky and the Brain

More information about the linux-aus mailing list