Software has become a strategic resource in the last few decades. The emergence of Free Software has drastically changed the economics of software development and usage.
In contrast to proprietary software, Free Software (FS) – also referred to as “Libre Software” or “Open Source Software” – can be used, copied, studied, modified and redistributed freely. Thus, FS enables the freedom to learn, the freedom to teach and the freedom to co-operate in building software and knowledge resources which benefit society as a whole. FS - in combination with Open Standards - makes fair competition possible by creating level playing fields where anyone may participate and innovate free of dependencies on software, formats and specifications. Moreover, these free technologies are more efficient since they favor interoperability, modularity and and code reuse.
Many national and regional governments have set the use and development of these free technologies as a strategic goal. Their value is recognised by the EC in its Digital Agenda for Europe, as part of its EU2020 strategy. FS and OS have been one of the cornerstones of FP6 and FP7 for Software and Services. Their strategic importance has also been confirmed by the EC's Open Source Observatory and the Worldbank infoDev report.
Gartner published a report in 2011 that stated that more than half of the organisations they surveyed have adopted Open-Source Software solutions as part of their IT strategy.
A program is free software if the program's users have the four essential freedoms:
- The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
- The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.
Various repositories with Free Software are available. Here's a short list:
- The Free Software Directory, maintained by the Free Software Foundation.
- Libre Projects is a list of Libre web services
- One of the best ways to try Free Software is to download a GNU/Linux distribution such as Fedora or Debian GNU/Linux. Most modern distributions can be tested on any computer using a live CD or USB disk, without modifying the existing system.
To learn more about Free Software you can contact or join any of the following organisations and communities:
- Why do we prefer to talk about Free or Libre Software and what's the difference with Open Source Software? Richard Stallman's updated article ; FKI's position.
- Gartner Survey Reveals More than Half of Respondents Have Adopted Open-Source Software Solutions as Part of IT Strategy
- The Free Software Definition