Richard Stallman: What is freedom-respecting software?

The founder of the free software movement talks about internet giants Google and Facebook, Creative Commons and internet freedom.

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  1. As a start up of one, my organisation is on a strictly limited budget, including old equipment without working sound.

    However, as a general comment from a developing country perspective, my experience does not serve as convincing evidence that “free” software is really “free”, in terms of either speech or cost.

    FOSS stuff is frequently complicated to install and learn, representing barriers to implementation and communication.

    In their fervour to evangelize for free software and declare social media giants like Facebook, Twitter and Google “evil”, the free software movement is unwittingly causing incalculable damage to countries that can least afford it – in the so-called developing world.

    I have personally seen so-called IT sections force overly complicated software on micro-orgs that do not need anywhere near the level of sophistocation foisted onto them – for example, an island NGO having to use Joomla over patchy net links to update their site – doomed to failure. This is an appalling misuse of scarce resources. Especially when simpler, faster and more reliable options are freely available. Such as Blogger, or Tumblr and so on.

    Third world countries need appropriate technology to cross the digital divide, and appropriate advice from first world advocates.

    It is my impression that there should be a two phase approach, one that sees micro-orgs, NGOs and SMEs start up with simple software. IF such orgs progress to scale, then, sure, set them up with Joomla, if audience demand requires such complexity.

    Otherwise, advocates would do well to stop wasting valuable time and resources with this obsession about large players like Google. Thing about Google? It works, quickly and simply. I cannot say the same for most FOSS.

    How much free speech, time and other resources are lost to complex alternatives? I am sure the totals would run into the billions, forming another sort of resource drain from the third world to the first.

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Free Speech Debate is a research project of the Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom at St Antony's College in the University of Oxford.

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