WLUG Meeting - 13th June 2005

Location: LitB, 7pm.

NandorTanczos of the Green Party came to discuss his views (and related Green Party policy) on Free/OpenSource software.

Firstly, he apologised for not being able to make the previous meeting as he was on select committee business in Australia.

He described himself as "not a geek, but a wannabe geek" --- as many WLUG members are aware, he runs Mandrake on his laptop, although he took one of our shiny new Ubuntu CDs away with him. He described what the IT department of the Parliamentary Services is like, and the huge amount of effort he had to go through to get them to install MozillaFirefox on his standard-issue windows machine --- he was constantly ignored or fobbed off with excuses about lack of support, and "standard corporate desktop", etc.

He then described general Green party policies of openness in science and research, and how this was under threat from the commercialisation of research and the threat of patents interfering with innovation (such as patents on food genes and software). Another thing they would like is more use of licences such as the Creative Commons License for government-created content.

With software, government IT departments are not interested in shifting from the status quo. State Services Commission guidelines originally didn't mention open source, although they now say that open source should be given "equal consideration". In practice, they aren't, mostly due to lack of awareness, but asking ParliamentaryQuestions as well as questionning during 'financial reviews' as to what consideration was given helps departments learn about the software available. At the policy level, software is not a well-known or catchy topic -- it doesn't win votes. Also, certain cabinet ministers are proud of their involvement in large ($25 million) software licensing deals.

At the political level, Nandor spoke about attempts to get cross-party discussions on patentability (in conjunction with NZOSS?) but there was not enough interest from the other politicians/parties. Internationally, green parties have been having more influence: Brasil + Argentina (OSS policies in Government), Germany, Europe (anti-software patent movement).

Finally, he told us that the Green party websites are in the process of moving from an IIS platform to an OSS platform, and his personal site ( already does, using PHP :)

Thank you Nandor for coming to speak with us.