Brand new Filipino free software coalition to push for “nation of creators”
By Nina Somera
MANILA, PHILIPPINES, 10 October 2006
A consortium of socially-aware free and open source software advocates was launched on the occasion of Software Freedom Day, September 16 2006, at University of the Philippines (UP).
BUKAS, which stands for Bagng Ugnayan para sa Kalayaan ng Sambayanan sa Software (which means something like New Formation for People’s Freedom in Software), consists of seventeen organisations nationwide which saw FOSS as a political imperative in light of the actual Filipino “intellectual property” regime.
Former UP president Francisco Nemenzo, who’s term is known for his decision to shift the university’s system to FOSS said: “IT [information technology] should make us not just a nation of users but a nation of creators. This can be done much better with Linux,” on the occasion of the Bukas launch.
“Bukas sees FOSS as a development alternative for a developing country like ours. FOSS is increasingly embraced by the development community given the maturity of options for users as well as the openness of certain segments of the government,” explains Al Alegre, executive director of Foundation for Media Alternative (FMA). “However it also confronts threats such as the strong lobby of proprietary software and emerging global trends like software patents, digital rights management, and trade regimes,” he adds.
The consortium aims to fill in the lacunae on advocacy within the Philippine FOSS ecosystem. Although FOSS guilds have been set-up for more technically-inclined individual and trade organisations, there is the absence of a group for users and developers who wish to forward FOSS for developmental purposes. Hence BUKAS stands as a united front of both software users and developers, willing to promote FOSS in various sectors such as education, health, economy, technology, gender and others. One clear goal of this common quest consists in engaging ICT policy-making related to FOSS.
Parallel to the initiative on behalf of the Filipino civil society, the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) of that country is embarking on a free software journey, made up of a set of programmes which aim to mainstream FOSS in education. A bill was recently filed by politician Teodoro Casino at the House of Representatives, mandating the use of FOSS, particularly in the government.
Bukas is coming about as a result of years of collective FOSS-related activities floated by the participating organisations. A session conducted by the APC-member FMA during the Philippine Open Source Conference 2004 for example, highlighted the social and political implications of software use. This was followed by a FOSS training for non governmental organisations (NGOs) in which over 30 groups participated. Linux World 2005 provided an even greater space for mobilisation as civil society organisations managed to organise a separate track on Public Interest and Advocacy. BUKAS is also actively pushing for FOSS and open standards in government during the recent Philippine civil society consultation of the country’s draft ICT roadmap.
Other activities in which members of BUKAS participated include Asiasource; the Philippine bid to the ASEAN+3 node of the International Open Source Network (University of the Philippines in Manila being the project holder); dialogue with Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth during his Asian tour; and several FOSS workshops for NGOs.
At the moment membership is primarily on an organisational basis. BUKAS members include three APC members: Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA); Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD); and Women’s Hub, as well as intellectual property groups, user groups and long-time APC-partner Isis International-Manila. Event though APC members are not leading the new formation, they actively collaborate with entities such as university agencies for example.
Software Freedom Day was organised by the University of the Philippines Linux Users’ Group (UnPLUG) and several other university entities and groups.