Public code for publicly financed international development cooperation
International development cooperation is increasingly digitised. Free Software thus is becoming a fundamental technology to reach the United Nation's Sustainable Development Goals. Together with experts in the field, the FSFE summarises these interrelations in an article and demands publicly funded software to be published as Free Software.
Inherent attributes of Free Software and its communities include equal access to the sources, an international culture of sharing and developing software together for the benefit of everyone. While many of us find these freedoms to be universally acceptable, we see that this is not the case once we look in the world of proprietary software. Unfortunately, the same is to be said for the distribution of natural resources around the globe.
In 2015 the United Nations General Assembly set the Sustainable Development Goals, aiming at "a better and sustainable future for all" by trying to reduce inequalities and offer equal access to the most basic resources of our societies like food, health and education. International development cooperation strives to achieve the UN sustainability goals by improving global conditions and the empowering of local partners. As in the case of Software Freedom in general, in international development cooperation existing dependencies should be reduced and new dependencies avoided at all costs.
Nowadays, international development cooperation is becoming increasingly digitised and shifting its focus towards digital cooperation. Whether in agriculture, industrial production, health care or public administration, the development and maintenance of modern social processes is no longer conceivable without software. To some extent functional software becomes the basic technology of social organization as well as of modern administrative services. The roll-out of proprietary software, however, exacerbates the dependencies of users in the developing countries on the currently market-dominating software industry from the present industrial countries. Free Software, in contrast, allows emancipation and independence of its users - be they individuals or state-owned organisations.
Free Software allows development investments once made to be reused around the globe without (further) license costs and without legal or technical restrictions. The simultaneous publication of its source code on public code repositories also enables one's own software development to profit from reusing, improving and republishing by other actors around the globe. In terms of international cooperation, the freely licensed source code serves as a basis for organized or self-empowered knowledge multiplication and transfer. Free Software allows the development of digital cornerstones and provides international standards without creating new monopolies and dependencies.
The reasons just mentioned show that Free Software is an essential part of any sustainable digital development. Consequently, the "Principles for Digital Development" require the publication of software, data and standards under free licenses. The FSFE, together with experts from the German Corporation for International Cooperation, has analyzed and put together the main benefits for international development cooperation when relying on Free Software in one article.
The article is part of our series about the basics of Free Software. It delivers background on the ongoing process of digitisation in international devlopment cooperation, its effects and the status quo. It sheds light on the multiple benefits that international development cooperation can profit from, when using and developing Free Software. They build reason the FSFE demanding that in all international development cooperation, any software development (co-)financed with public money be published as Free Software.
Nico Lück, co-author of the article and expert from the German Corporation for International Cooperation sums up: "Minimising dependencies and building up local partner capacities fosters sustainability of IT solutions: Free Software and other open resources are the enabling instruments to be preferred and promoted for sustainable development cooperation."