Money Talks

Saturday, October 04 2003 @ 04:00 PM EDT

Contributed by: PJ

This story almost tells itself. Remember in August, when the UN's World Summit on the Information Society declared itself in favor of open source? It seems Microsoft didn't like that. Lobbying ensued, and the US and certain EU countries brought pressure to bear. Your tax dollars at work.

The upshot?

"International governments have toned down their proposed endorsement of open-source software models, following lobbying by businesses at a preparatory meeting of the World Summit on the Information Society, which is set to run this December in Geneva.

"Language in an August draft of the WSIS Plan of Action that would have advocated the use of open-source software, particularly in developing nations, was toned down in the September 26 draft, to give equal weight to the value of proprietary software.

"The August draft promoted open source awareness, the creation of intellectual property mechanisms supporting open source, and the creation of a UN 'Programmers Without Frontiers' body to support open source software in developing nations.

"In the new draft, these are replaced with a more general description of how governments should "promote awareness among all stakeholders of the possibilities offered by different software models... including proprietary, open-source and free software".

"The changes were apparently made after input from several nations uneasy with excluding mentions of proprietary software from the Plan, and from the business lobby's delegation, which came out strongly against open-source.

"'Business has consistently stated that it is essential for governments to ensure technologically neutral policy towards different software models,' said the delegate from the business lobby, during the conference debate.

"'Governments cannot know, case-by-case, what software solution is best for every user,' she said, urging the deletion of the open-source provisions. 'Each user should be allowed to make a choice that meets their individual needs.'"

Yes, the story is absolutely outrageous. The whole point was supposed to be to bridge the digital divide between IT haves and have-nots, and it's obvious that would mean open source software, not proprietary. The next time I see a headline about the Gates Foundation giving away money in the third world, I'll remember what they did here, lobbying to make sure IT have-nots stayed that way.

But I look at it this way. Evidently this organization didn't want to even suggest using proprietary software until they were lobbied hard. That doesn't bode well for Microsoft and proprietary software. Open source/free software doesn't have to pressure or lobby anyone, and they still will win, barring international martial law. No matter what the paper ends up saying, governments will continue to switch over to open source/free software. It's a no brainer.

Another way to look at this article is to look at how the organization's proposal against spam got seriously watered down too. The earlier draft had a number of proposals, including prosecution of spammers. The 100 words got reduced to this recommendation:

""Take appropriate action on spam at national and international levels."

My, the company Microsoft is forced to keep just to stay in the running! It's a sad, sad story.