Friday, January 04, 2008

Open source software in 2015 (1)

The Dutch language Open Source Yearbook 2007-2008 contains a chapter projecting the situation of open source software in 2015. The editor and a contributor have interrogated people about their view on open source software in 2015; the question was: When you think about the open source software situation in 2015, can you indicate the most important differences with the present situation (of 2007). The year 2015 has not been chosen ad random, but from 2007 it means a span of eight years. (It is a coincidence to note that the UN will hold a review of its WSIS, the World Summit on the Information Society) If the chapter had been about a technological forecast, the span could have been longer, but open source software becomes a social issue with ethical, economic and political consequence besides a technological development. In two instalments, ten people from various walks of life have been asked to give their view or look back to 2007.

Jo LaHaye, managing director of MMBase and chairman of the association HollandOpen, looks back from 2015 to 2007 and reminds the reader of the optimism in 2007, when a vice secretary of state of the Economic Affairs Department defined an Open Source Software policy and the EC Commissioner Neelie Smit Kroes ordered Microsoft to pay a parking fee. Yet two things went wrong after that: it is hard fighting against established monopolies. But what really brought down the open source software community was the software patent jurisdiction, executed by the European Patent Office, despite wide opposition from the European Parliament. Mr Lahaye remarks that predicting is difficult and he can only hope that he is the worst futurist in The Netherlands.

Ms Ada Gerkens, the only woman asked to give her view in this team of forecasters, is a Dutch parliamentarian of the Socialist Party. Ms Gerkens is more optimistic than Mr Lahaye. She notes in 2015, that since open source software now has a better market, there are more developments. Existing software will be improved in its functionality and even surpasses the Microsoft solutions with regard to user friendliness. It will also yield more innovative solutions in ICT. The climax will be, when Neelie Smit Kroes intimates an interviewer in 2015 that her PC and laptop are completely open source software driven. “I stand for my ideals, a free market doest not tolerate a monopolist”, she said in the interview.

Rishab Aiyer Gosh, a senior researcher of the United Nations University and the MERIT institute in Maastricht, has a positive forward looking view on the development of open source software. One of his strong quotes is: “Unless Microsoft changes its business model dramatically, companies will re-direct their investments to open source”. For him the real promise of open source is in the participation of users in the development and control of their information products and –services. Web 2.0 and Wikipedia are the precursors of what will happen in ICT in general due to open source. But the development is dependent on the fact whether children will be educated to be citizens and creators instead of consumers.

Wouters Tebbens is program manager of the Science, education and Learning in Freedom association. He foresees two scenarios: a continuation of the present situation or a paradigma shift. He wishes that in 2015 not only free software is widely spread, but that also the principles behind this software and digital works in general are generally known. It is not only free software, but also free knowledge with free and open content in the cultural sector and open access in science. For education this would mean the use of free teaching tools, in which teachers and students participate in an open production of it.

Aad Koppenhol, Principal IT architect with Sun Microsystems Netherlands, puts the software scene in a larger context. It is not only open source and other IT developments which count. Globalisation, political ideas and even Green IT all influence the future developments. And of course Internet, which has made the user part of the process, which was formerly restricted to code banger. Mr Koppenhol foresees Virtual Power Networks, which are going to be stronger than advertisements and other communications from companies. Other disciplines will have to be involved in the development of open source software. Humanitarian values should also be considered; think of Network Identity. This type of questions requires a multidisciplinary approach within the open source movement.

Blog Posting Number: 968

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