COVID-19 Hackathons: Only Free Software creates global solutions
Currently we see a lot of hackathons to find tools that help tackle the crisis of pandemic COVID-19. More and more governments and administrations are hosting or funding such hackathons. To make sure that the results of these hackathons can be used globally and adapted locally - that the software can be used, studied, shared and improved everywhere - the FSFE asks to publish the outcomes under a Free Software licence.
Breaking the chain of COVID-19 infections and alleviating its dramatic impacts are of top priority within our societies. Software is inherently connected to achieve these goals, from 3D printing ventilators to tracking potential outbreaks or organising solidarity within communities. During the last weeks we have seen virtual hackathons being organised to help find and fund solutions that tackle the COVID-19 crisis. For the time being only some of them are published under a Free Software licence, also called Open Source Software or Libre Software licence, meaning that these solutions can be used, studied, shared and improved by everyone around the world.
Meanwhile, more and more European governments and administrations are hosting virtual hackathons to help develop new tools. While some of them are explicitly supporting Free Software solutions only, like the WirVsVirus hackathon others are not mentioning their licence at all - like EUvsVirus initiated by the European Commission or Global Hack, funded by StartUpEU, making it difficult or impossible to reuse the software in other parts of the world.
In a time when humanity needs to work together to find solutions for a crisis, we cannot afford to reinvent the wheel again and again for software that helps us tackle the spread of COVID-19. Global problems need global solutions! It is Free Software that enables global cooperation for code development. Any proprietary solution will inevitably lead to countless isolated solutions and waste energy and time which we as humanity cannot afford in such a critical situation.
Besides global cooperation, Free Software licences allow sharing of code in any jurisdiction. Solutions developed in one country can be reused and adapted in another one. International development agencies and humanitarian movements can help to contain the spread of COVID-19 in any country around the world with the availability of Free Software solutions.
Already before this crisis hundreds of organisations and tens of thousands of people demanded that publicly financed software developed for the public sector must be made publicly available under Free Software licences. It is now even more important than ever before to tackle this crisis.