How to make policy makers support FOSS

I facilitated a break-out session during the second day of the Philippine Conference on FOSS and e-Governance on March 8, 2007. Entitled “Making a Case for FOSS: Convincing Policy Makers to Support FOSS in e-Governance”, the session had two distinguished resource persons, namely, Cong. Teddy Casino of Bayan Muna and former CICT Commissioner Boying Lallana. The congressman introduced the FOSS Bill while Boying centered his presentation on his viewpoint that mandating the use of FOSS in government is dangerous. Yes folks, the two differed in their points of view but I did not let that be the center of the discourse.

The objective of the session was to identify strategies to convince policy-makers, not to unite on whether FOSS should be mandated or not. Saved by the bell, I said to myself.

What I did was extract the strategies stated or implied by both gentlemen. And then I evoked from the participants their additions to the strategies. Of course, there was no stopping some participants from commenting to the presentations as well.

Without further ado, the following transpired during the session, which serve as intertwining strategies to convince policy-makers to make FOSS in e-governance thoroughgoing and effective:

  1. Approach the very people that make decisions as far as ICT is concerned.
  2. Develop FOSS champions in congress, both the Lower and Upper Houses. The success of the FOSS Bill, for example, relies also on the presence of more legislators supportive of the bill. This requires diligence on the part of the advocates even to the extent of educating and giving the legislators hands-on training.
  3. Strengthen the FOSS movement. This community must be capable of: a) documenting and disseminating success stories on the use of FOSS, b) providing an environment for mutual help, c) making allies, d) and exposing the weaknesses of the proprietary software system.
  4. Engage all government mechanisms possible (e.g., Local Development Councils, ICT-related conferences, and congress hearings) whereby FOSS may be introduced and stir interests among the government stakeholders.
  5. Show that FOSS just works. Advocates must be able to convince policy-makers about the advantages of FOSS in terms of data security, transparency, interoperability, and FOSS’s contribution to the development of the Filipino IT industry.
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