Public events for promotion of the National Free and Open Source Software Policy
Public events for promotion and discussion on the occasion of the text of the National Free and Open Source Software Policy were held in March in Tetovo, Shtip, Skopje and Bitola. The purpose of these events was to include the public in the process of finalizing the text of the policy before it is submitted to the Ministry of Information Society and Administration. This was also the last phase of the project for adoption of the national policy. The public meetings were mediated by representatives of Free Software Macedonia, the Metamorphosis Foundation and the Ministry of Information Society and Administration.
The format of the public events was envisaged to include an introductory presentation on the needs for adopting this policy. In this context, it was noted that this policy is adopted to emphasize the good practice in using free software and to indicate the wrong examples and how they can be reduced. The implementation of the project “Computer for Every Child” was mentioned as a good example based on which the future policy should be built, and that weaknesses should be identified in order to implement better projects in the future. All recommendations of the policy were outlined and explained. Since the events took place in academic cities, a special emphasis was also placed on the link between free software, education and the labor market. At the same time, the meaning of open standards was underlined, as well as the importance of neutrality and impartiality in the work of public authorities in terms of technological requirements and communication with the citizens.
The public event in Tetovo took place on March 14 in the Center for Balkan Cooperation ‘Ljoja’. The event was attended by the media and a number of citizens, particularly from the academic community. The main topic of discussion after the introductory presentation was education in both its aspects treated by politics. From an aspect of the “Computer for Every Child” project, the difficulties for local implementation were highlighted. Among other things, the problem with the localization and translation to Albanian language was mentioned, inciting the discussion on modalities that could provide for a continuous system of sustainable localization. In that sense, the need to pay greater attention to students and to promote open source software was pointed out because young people are less inert to change. Therefore, they are more open for acceptance of new technologies, and for accessing technology such as open source software.
The public debate in Shtip was held on March 17 at the premises of the Municipal assembly. The event was also attended mainly by members of the academic population. Aside from the aforementioned challenges facing the introduction of free software such as the curriculum, there was an open discussion on the topic of impartiality and transparency. Some participants expressed doubt that companies developing software for the needs of the public authorities would allow insight into their source code or any other client right over the software. This is one of the challenges for the National Free and Open Source Policy, because it should unify the efforts for transparency, security, accountability and sustainability with the market situation and company policies. Similar to this, a discussion was also opened about the recommendation on impartiality of skill requirements in the process of advertising job vacancies.
This was also discussed at the public meeting held in Skopje at the Institute of Informatics. During this meeting, the representative of the Ministry of Information Society and Administration outlined the Ministry’s efforts for an unbiased qualification of civil servants with the European Computer Driving License. According to the representative, this kind of computer literacy training is not dependent on a particular platform and allows choice. This meeting covered issues such as the public procurements and the impartial policy towards platforms, as well as the inclusion of free software in education. It was noted that we still need to work for neutrality in education programs on these subjects, thereby avoiding preference of a particular platform and reducing the chance for arbitrariness.
The public event in Bitola was held on March 22 at the premises of the Technical Faculty in Bitola. Similar to previous meetings, the various points of the draft policy were also discussed here. However, what interested the participants most was the connection between open source software in education and business. Hence, a discussion on the inclusion of FOSS in the education process (as a commitment arising from the policy) and the effect it would have on the growing willingness of students in terms of knowledge and skills needed for the labor market.
The conclusion drawn from these public events is that despite the efforts that can be found in the text of the policy, the public debate about these issues needs to continue as a way to constantly improve the work of public authorities and inform the interested public about the current topics.