The Mirror, Vol. 15, No. 701
Though this Mirror is posted only on 4 February 2011 because of my medical problems – they are not gone, but I hope I should be able to be back on normal schedule by the time of the coming Sunday – it is posted under the date of Sunday, 30 January 2011, as it had been planned originally, and also to maintain the rhythm of Sunday publications.
Since the last Sunday Mirror Why Should We Care about Interfering with the Freedom of Information? of 23.1.2011 was published, there were deep changes going on in Tunisia and in Egypt, for which the Internet is considered to have been one important element involved. At the beginning of the demonstrations in Tunisia calling for an end to corruption and the creation of employment opportunities, blogging activities on the Internet played an encouraging role in the country suffering from various forms of censorship. Some media called the changes in Tunisia even a Twitter Revolution, because this micro-blogging service provided easy, quick, and wide communication. When tens of thousands of people started to gather in Egypt to voice their concerns for change, the government shut down the Internet completely to prevent it to be used as an instrument for public mobilization. Also SMS services were switched off – but only after the major provider of mobile phone services had been forced to send several SMSes supporting the government.
All these events are covered extensively in the media of many countries – though, it is reported, that information about Egypt is restricted in the media in China, and even the word “Egypt” [埃及] is blocked in Internet search engines in China.
Instead, in The Mirror, we would like this time to continue referring to other means of restricting, or, on the other hand, to supporting the freedom of expression on the Internet, through computer related technical, legal, and through economic measures. On Saturday, 29.1.2011, we had a report on the importance of Free Open Source Software, reporting about a FOSS Asia event which had taken place in Vietnam in November last year, with a focus on Lightweight Computing and Women in Information Technology – promoted and carried out by an enthusiastic user community.
There had been similar events in the past of an early stage pioneering nature: the first one in Malaysia, and the second one a three-days workshop in Cambodia, in Siem Reap, in September 2005, sponsored by the International Open Source Network, which was part of the United Nations Development Program’s Asia-Pacific Development Information Program, with participants from 23 countries. The meeting was organized to provide “an effective policy-level platform for the exchange of information and experiences in the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) for development.” The nature of the high level policy goals was obvious through the participation of Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation, and an address by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, in which he stated that Free and Open Source Software could help Cambodia to have a lot of savings in license fees, to make software readily available locally, to reduce usage costs drastically, to eliminate software piracy, and to enable Cambodian students to closely study software code and understand its behavior.
Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, who is also Deputy Chairperson of the National Information Communication Technology Development Authority – NiDA – had already addressed the advantages for the whole country in his programmatic declaration of Cambodia government policy, at the three-days workshop on ICT awareness in September 2001, about the preference for Open Source software to avoid dependency on proprietary systems:
All laws, regulations and policies in the IT sector will reflect the following guiding spirit and philosophy:
- to uphold the interests of the consumers and general public
- to guarantee security of information, while facilitating the broadest possible access to public information
- to respect individual rights, and
- to avoid dependency on proprietary systems, instead promoting open systems and interoperability.
(The source had been for many years at http://www.nida.gov.kh/activities/it_awareness/ – “Closing remark of Senior Minister Sok An [PDF(19.0KB)]”)
Many individuals and organizations are following this policy and use legally and freely available Open Source software. The most systematic promotion and implementation of Open Source software in Cambodia is the use of UNICODE based Khmer language software by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports – in the Ministry, in the Teacher Training Colleges of the country, in the Provincial Offices of Education, and in high schools that have computers.
Any reader who is interested to start to use Open Source software and needs information – what to get where and how to install it – is welcome to write to me at the following address: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please recommend The Mirror also to your colleagues and friends.