Monday, February 8, 2010

Open and Public - but for everyone?

A recent article on an 'Open Source Embargo' highlights that US Law prevents 'sanctioned nations' from accessing Open Source software from websites hosted in the US, such as

US Law states that sanctioned nations such as North Korea, Cuba, Sudan and Syria can not post to or access content from SourceForge, the "largest Open Source applications and software directory", prevented through having an identified sanctioned nation IP address.

I understand that these 'sanctioned nations' are embargoed by western nations due to their poor human rights or potential terrorist activity, but surely offering the people of these nations the opportunity to 'better themselves' should improve diplomatic relations.

I don't imagine that by allowing the people of these sanctioned nations to download the 'hottest software' they will treat their people any worst or lead to more terrorist activity.

But these type of restrictions are not just restricted to 'sanctioned nations'.

Whilst investigating a UK Mobile Learning Network - MoLeNet - I discovered that because I didn't have a UK educational domain email I was not allowed to join and participate in their 'community of practice'.

And locally, we have similar 'embargos' on accessing educational resources, with some jurisdictions not allowing their neighbouring states/territories to freely access their publically funded 'intellectual property' - as this should only be for the benefit of their residents.

And finally, the 'closed shop, re-selling of public resources' attitude ie content and resources developed by public education and training organisations, whereby anything produced by an employee of these organisations 'belongs to the Minister', even if the resource is produced in the person's own time.

Surely Open Source ethos means EVERYBODY is allowed access?

And with the emergence of Creative Commons licencing for Australian Government information, publically funded educational resources should also be put into this category?


jerry said...

Hi Allison,
Interesting post. If you have a look at the OSI's (Open Source Initiative's) site, who are the custodian if you like of what Open Source means, they list 10 requirements which must be satisfied as part of the Open Source Definition. Requirements 5 and 6 are particularly relevant here:

5. No discrimination against persons or groups.
6. No discrimination against fields of endeavour.


Blocking Sourceforge contravenes both of these. So if you store your open source solution on sourceforge you are kind of failing both these obligations. Anyway, I think there are lot of examples much closer to home where as you indicate, we in parts of Australian education, have not evolved with the times and just don't get the benefits of openness while we are stuck in outdated views and business models.


theother66 (formally MadMiller) said...

Thanks for this very interesting information Jerry.

I suppose we are all still learning what it means to be open and share our resources and skills.