Open Letter to Prime Minister Erdoğan: Invest your $5b in digital freedom
In recent weeks, political events in Istanbul have been the focus of international media. Important discussions are taking place about Turkey's government and her people. Several have lost their lives in the process
Days before the protests in Taksim Square erupted, President Erdoğan was in America. On behalf of an ambitious education investment project called FATIH, he toured Silicon Valley as the guest of America's largest technology companies, each of whom are hoping to land a contract for more than 10 million new tablet computers.
As the safety and freedom on the street of Turkey's activists is hotly debated in the press, the safety and freedom of her children to learn has understandably received much less attention. Whether it is publicly discussed or not however, $5 billion will soon be spent on education, and it's impact on the rights of the next generation of Turkey's students will be immense.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan,
We urge you to take alternative products into consideration, and consider the impact of the software those tablets use.
Google, Apple, and Microsoft, who hosted you, all tie their tablets to software which would prevent Turkish children from studying and customising it. The companies you spoke to enforce strict proprietary licensing which would ensure that schools could only lease their ability to use applications, not own them or rights to them.
Free Software, contrastingly, protects students' rights to use, study, share, and improve it. In an educational context these rights can make the difference between consumers and creators. Without these freedoms, the 17 million students affected by your plan cannot experiment or develop the understanding necessary to lead digital economies in future.
Software support and maintenance is expensive, and proprietary software exacerbates these costs by restricting who can provide you with services. By using Free Software, Turkish schools would lose their dependency on a single vendor, and competition for service contracts could be more local, and more competitive.
Finally, for better security of both schools and students, Free Software makes its code available, providing evidence of how it functions. This week's revelations surrounding British Government spying on Turkish politicians at the G20 summit highlight the importance of software security and privacy. Educational computers should not provide back-doors for foreign Governments and companies.
Apple, Google and Microsoft all embrace Free Software themselves, and use it internally. Making the step towards Free Software tablets is important however, and several global manufacturers and distributors offer Free Software devices for sale. Will the freedom of Turkey's citizens be considered in your forthcoming decision to purchase tablets?
Please send us your answer, and do not hesitate to contact us should you have further questions about the contents of this letter.
Sam Tuke, Vicen Rodriguez, Filip Lobik
The Free Software Foundation Europe e.V.