Software Freedom Day Celebrated in Islamabad
The open source users community in Pakistan has been growing steadily over the years. In 2013, Open Source Foundation Pakistan (OSFP) was established as a non-profit in Pakistan with the aim of fostering the use and adaption of open source technologies within the government, businesses and homes.
Its founding President, Mr Jahanzeb Arshad explains that “the aim of OSFP is to raise awareness about open source software. It’s not only about price but actually it’s the freedom.” He adds, “Freedom to use, share, change and distribute.”
As part of their promotional activities, OSF Pakistan joined the rest of the world in celebrating Software Freedom Day in Islamabad.
As stated on Software Freedom Day website, It is
“a worldwide celebration of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Our goal in this celebration is to educate the worldwide public about the benefits of using high quality FOSS in education, in government, at home, and in business”
The third Saturday of September is designated as the software freedom day and this year alone nearly 200 separate events were planned in over 70 countries. This year, it was celebrated on September 20, 2014. The first such event was held in 2004 with Canonical (Makers of popular Linux distro Ubuntu) as its most famous backers.
The venue of Pakistan event was at Higher Education Commission Auditorium in Islamabad. Over 150 of students, professionals and users attended the event which was also live broadcast to Virtual University campuses nationwide.
The event is critical in highlighting issues pertaining to the open source software. It is widely understood that the users of open source software do not have a clear understanding of what it means to use free and open source software. As one of the participants and respected Industry leader Mr Malani pointed out that open source “does not automatically mean it’s all free. There are licenses involved with almost all open source software.” Majority of the open source software are protected by GNU, Creative Commons and other similar licenses. Based on the license protecting it, the commercial use of the software maybe restricted or completely disallowed. “This distinction needs to be understood and complied upon.” he added.
There was an engrossing and interactive panel discussion where the audience were given the floor to ask questions from experts who came from academia and Information Technology fields. Questions varied from differentiating propriety technologies promoted by Microsoft and other vendors in comparison with open source and free software available online. The issue of piracy and how it affects the use of licensed software was also discussed. And the applications being built using open source technologies in the commercial world.
OSFP also requested the participants to sign up and join the OSFP foundation. The response was highly positive and dozens of participants filled out the membership form. The benefits are immense. “We are just getting started with this movement”, states Mr Jahanzeb Arshad, “We plan to organize trainings and events nationally and our members can get special discounts on trainings.” The members will also be assisted in exploring opportunities of linkages between the academia and industry. Thus, fostering partnerships that result in meaningful and successful open source project implementations.
This is a small step in the right direction. If OSF Pakistan is able to promote the “right” use of open source technologies and help build an eco-system locally, it will definitely play a key role in reducing the use of pirated software applications within Pakistan and create an alternative to propriety and costly software applications.