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[ox-en] Microsoft and FLOSS advocates face off at Sangonet

Microsoft and FLOSS advocates face off at Sangonet
By Richard Frank

9 March, 2006

A subtle battle of ideologies emerged at an open source plenary held at
the Sangonet "ICTs for Civil Society" conference in Johannesburg on
Wednesday, as open source advocates and a Microsoft representative
shared center stage.

Manager of the CSIR Open Source center, Nhlanhla Mabaso, opened the
plenary and quoted a clause from the 1955 Freedom Charter ? a historic
charter adopted by the Congress of the People during South Africa's
liberation struggle.

"All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free
exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands," Mabaso read from the charter. "I don't think they knew about free software then, but what
they said is quite relevant," he remarked.

Later in the morning, National Technology Officer of Microsoft SA,
Potlaki Maine, struck back, saying the open source movement does not
hold a monopoly on the "liberationist tradition".

Maine said he agreed that people must stop being mere consumers and
become creators of information products. "I don't think a monopoly to do
that is restricted to a particular tradition," he said, arguing that
Microsoft initiatives allowed for "digital inclusion".

Although Maine's speech, entitled "Everyone deserves a future --
Together we can make it happen", contained few direct comparisons
between Microsoft and Linux, he did make a number of choice asides.

"I will not dwell on the fact that Microsoft is more widely used than
the others, but that is a fact," he told the delegates, showing a pie
graph that revealed Microsoft's operating system dominance.

"When we look at costs, people trump up the merits of Linux as an
operating system that is nominally free," says Maine. "But the fact of
the matter is that you need to look at costs from a stack view," he
says, adding that implementation and support factors need to be taken
into account.

Earlier, Mabaso said civil society needed to catch up to government in
the open source arena. "When you see civil society lagging behind
government, you have to worry," he noted.

He called on civil society to "take the lead" in the open source arena.
Mabaso said he would like to see "a call from civil society for a
moratorium on software patents in the country".

Contact: projekt

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