Thiruvananthapuram: Free software activists should take technology to rural areas for the benefit of the poor, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan 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 by the common people and became an alternative to the software monopolised by the multinational companies,” he noted.
Pinarayi Vijayan was inaugurating the 6th 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, 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 realize 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,” Vijayan said.
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.
IT Secretary M. Sivasankar said that during the last 10-12 years, Kerala has consistently taken a stand that it would prefer to use free software in the 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 pointed out that despite having the abundance of talents in Kerala, the state 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 a vote of thanks at the function. Thirty-six speakers from around the globe will lead various sessions at the event that would deliberate on various facets and implications of free and open source software. Around 400 free software enthusiasts from the IT sector attended the conference.