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Free Software Should Benefit The Poor: CM Tells Swatantra 2017

Thiruvananthapuram: Free software activists should take the technology to rural areas for the benefit of the poor, Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister, Kerala said here, making a strong plea to digital technologists to come forward and embrace this mission. “Free software emerged from the bottom of the society and ordinary people were its beneficiaries. People, including

Thiruvananthapuram: Free software activists should take the technology to rural areas for the benefit of the poor, Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister, Kerala said here, making a strong plea to digital technologists to come forward and embrace this mission. “Free software emerged from the bottom of the society and ordinary people were its beneficiaries. People, including teachers and labourers, took it forward from the technologists. It grew owing to the collective efforts of the common people and became an alternative to the software monopolised by the multinational companies,” he noted.

Vijayan was inaugurating the sixth edition of Swatantra 2017, the two-day triennial free software conference organised by International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), an autonomous organisation under the Kerala government’s IT Department, at Mascot Hotel here. He said free software has emerged as an alternative against possession of knowledge and use of technology against people.

“Today, free software has come to represent democratisation of knowledge, the freedom of people and the sanctity of personal privacy. If we look into the past, we realise that the relevance of free software has increased. All over the world, regimes are trying to intrude into the privacy of people. Today, new digital technology is being used as a weapon to hijack privacy and deny freedom. So in the fight of protecting privacy and freedom, free software has a vital role,” he added.

“Free software is a strong element in the development of democracy. It’s a strong weapon against digital technology-based exploitation. As far as our young digital technologists are concerned, it offers opportunities to set up new entrepreneurship and room for experiments. It will also bring economic benefit to the government,” said the Chief Minister.

In her address, Karen Sandler, Director, Software Freedom Conservancy and ex-Director of GNOME Foundation, who was the chief guest, said that with the arrival of Internet of Things (IOT), it’s not easy to know which of critical devices are communicating each other. “We all use technology in our daily life. If we continue to use proprietary software in our critical devices, we cannot anticipate either the good or bad of the future. So it’s vital to embrace free software,” she added.

M Sivasankar IAS, IT Secretary, said that during the last 10-12 years, Kerala has consistently taken a stand that it would prefer to use free software in government applications. “The latest IT policy of the Kerala Government has very clearly outlined that free software is the medium to be used in government sector. We have had a very strong community of free software activists emerging from the state,” he pointed out.

The IT Secretary said that despite having the abundance of talent, Kerala has not been able to get into large investments in the free software space. “Kerala is on the radar internationally in the free software segment. We have to explore how to bring business in this sector,” he said.

Dr. Jayasankar Prasad C, Director, ICFOSS, proposed the vote of thanks at the function. Thirty-six speakers from around the globe led various sessions at the event that deliberated on various facets and implications of free and open source software. Around 400 free software enthusiasts from the IT sector attended the event.

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