APC free/libre and open source software policy (APC FLOSS Policy)

About this document

This policy expresses APC's commitment to the promotion of free/libre and open source software (FLOSS), open standards and the promotion of open sharing of knowledge. 

We are committed to creating and experimenting with technology using free/libre and open source software, tools and platforms. Promoting, disseminating and sharing knowledge about the use of FLOSS is central to our praxis. 

We consider FLOSS to be the only truly safe and sustainable digital tools choice that respects the needs of communities and reflects the culture of sharing, participation and collaboration that APC promotes on all levels.  

We proritise FLOSS and open standards for the following reasons:

  • Driven by community needs: Open source software and hardware allow the community of users and developers to respond to needs that are sometimes not considered “profitable” enough for prioritisation by companies that drive the development of proprietary software. Conversely, given the collaborative nature of the development of most FLOSS projects, community needs can drive FLOSS software and hardware developments. We promote adoption of this model not only because it produces appropriate software and hardware that we can all use, but also because it is applicable to many areas of community development, not just software and hardware production. Great examples are the creative commons movement in the arts, or the contemporary unprecedented open source healthcare movement that works collaboratively to fight COVID-19.

  • Sustainability: The FLOSS model of sharing, collaboration and mutual support is the best response to the challenge of creating safe, secure, sustainable, affordable and accessible solutions. This becomes increasingly important as we witness increasing monopolisation of services and software/hardware solutions, and the monetisation of more and more aspects of human lives, some we never imagined possible, particularly the harvesting and commercialisation of personal information.

  • Security: We support the assumption that FLOSS is by design more secure than proprietary solutions because its code is openly available and can be reviewed. This is particularly true in the case of major FLOSS projects where the development process provides a high level of certainty that the software is without backdoors, adware or code that extracts user data for use by third parties. As the saying goes for the free software development process: “given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow”.

The APC community applies the principles of FLOSS into our work in the following ways wherever possible:

  • Open document formats: APC stores and shares documents in open document standard (ODF) formats. Members and staff are encouraged to install and use OpenOffice, LibreOffice, AbiWord or other cross-platform office packages that support ODF standards in their work.

  • Creating content using CC licences: To support the open sharing of knowledge, APC uses creative commons licensing for publicly available content wherever possible, and incorporates CC licensing in all of its contracts with members, partners and consultants.

  • Self-hosted online services: Whenever possible, APC uses self-hosted open source alternatives to commonly used proprietary online services. We don't believe in the commercialisation of user data and we consider self-hosted services to be more secure and mindful of users' privacy. Real privacy is achieved when users are empowered by choice about the usage of their own data, which is disengaged by the right to use a service. APC members and staff are encouraged to prioritise using open source or community-run online services when collaborating with other members, or with APC staff, and we encourage sharing of services between and amongst the community. Examples of such services are Etherpads (instead of Google Docs), OwnCloud/Nextcloud setups (instead of Dropbox), Jitsi, BigBlueButton or Mumble (instead of proprietary online meeting tools like Zoom or Skype), Signal/Wire (instead of WhatsApp).

  • Supporting the FLOSS development community: We encourage members of the APC community to join forums and mailing lists associated with the FLOSS tools we use. This allows us not only to access the support we need from these forums, but allows us to contribute to the development and adoption of FLOSS by others, by reporting bugs, suggesting new features, helping with software translations, providing support to other users through online forums, etc. Whenever we can, we donate time or money towards the development of the FLOSS tools we use, as a way to contribute to making these community-focused initiatives sustainable.

Limitations to the adoption of FLOSS

While FLOSS development and promotion remains APC's priority, we are also very aware of the real-life limitations to the wide adoption of FLOSS for all of our ICT tools and services. 

We understand that promotion and use of FLOSS require some (non-monetary) investment from users, and the price to be paid can in some cases include longer production times, lower usability of FLOSS tools, more frequent bugs that require frequent workarounds, etc. 

We understand that using FLOSS can represent a significant change in organisational and individual culture and behaviour and it can require considerable effort to switch from one system to another.

When these challenges or barriers become too costly, we make a conscious decision to use proprietary solutions, but always with the long-term goal of migrating to FLOSS when this becomes a viable option.

The use of FLOSS options can become difficult when working on graphic design, as well as professional audio and video production. Designers in particular struggle with unavailability of printer CMYK support for FLOSS tools, which impacts on the results of their work. Audit trail requirements determined by international standards bodies can mean proprietary software for accounting packages is the only option. Other common issues with FLOSS tools include inconsistency (occurrence of regular bugs) and problems with file compatibility when sharing with other users who use proprietary software and file formats.

Available FLOSS tools 

FLOSS tools with a high level of stability, adoption (and available support) in the APC community:

FLOSS software

What is it for?

What does this FLOSS tool replace?

DESKTOP (clients available)

Thunderbird

Email client

Outlook, other commercial mail clients

Mozilla Firefox

Web browser

Internet Explorer, Safari, Google Chrome, and similar

LibreOffice

Documents, spreadsheets and presentations

Microsoft Office and similar

Gimp and Inkscape

Image editing, drawing, vector graphics editor

Photoshop, Adobe Studio and similar

Audacity

Audio editing

Adobe Audition and similar

Blender 

3D animation and modeling suite

Autodesk and other professional animation tools

Scribus

Desktop publishing software

Microsoft Publisher and similar

 

Shotcut

Video editor

Windows Movie Maker and similar

GanttProject, OpenProject, or ProjectLibre

Project management

Microsoft Project and similar

CiviCRM

Contact management, mailing, events

Salesforce

KeePassXC

Password manager

 

Signal​​​​

Direct messaging application (phone, tablet and desktop)

WhatsApp and similar

 

Wire

Direct messaging/ collaboration application that does not require phone number and can be accessed via browser (phone, tablet and desktop)

WhatsApp and similar

 

Mattermost

Team collaboration

Slack and similar

ONLINE (can be locally or remotely hosted and accessed via web browser)

Kimai​​​​​​

Time tracking

Commercial options

Mattermost

 

 

Direct messaging (one to one and many to many) communication platform

Slack and similar

Nextcloud + OnlyOffice

 

Shared file storage, collaborative editing with many plugins (notes, polls, stacks, mindmap)

Dropbox, Google storage and collaboration services

Etherpad lite

Collaborative editing pad with simple formatting options

Collaborative services

CryptPad

Collaborative editing pad with simple formatting options and end-to-end encryption

Collaborative services

 

Additional resources: 

FLOSS support from APC

If you are considering migrating to any specific FLOSS software or operating system, don't hesitate to reach out to APC tech support <support@apc.org> or write to [apc.tech] list that is used by members-techies to share, and to support each other <apc.tech@lists.apc.org>.
 

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