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Strengthening digital infrastructure: A policy agenda for FOSS

"A @EU_Commission sponsored report found that in 2018, companies invested roughly €1 billion into creation, which resulted in up to a €95 billion benefit for FOSS users in the EU. Similar estimates for the investment in FOSS were $33 billion in 2019. However, despite these attempts we have only scratched the surface of truly understanding the value FOSS provides to the economy and modern life"

brookings.edu/research/strengt

@lightweight @humanetech @EU_Commission This is why it’s important for public schools to use #FOSS. The taxpayer must fund schools & when schools buy proprietary s/w it’s a total loss for the taxpayer. But if the school invests in FOSS, the value of enriching the commons from the FOSS investment can be a reciprocal benefit to the taxpayer.

@koherecoWatchdog @lightweight @humanetech @EU_Commission I would have expected the investment into FOSS to be way higher in the EU compared to the USA! Very surprised. Does it have to with business investment vs org + gov investment?

@stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @lightweight I suspect it may simply be that the tech sector is much bigger in the US. I don’t think it mentioned costs on proprietary software which is also probably higher in the US.

@stragu
@koherecoWatchdog @EU_Commission @lightweight

I wondered the same and thought that maybe it was maybe badly formulated and the 95 billion Euros are compared with that amount.

@humanetech @lightweight @EU_Commission @stragu the corporate culture in the US is to outsource like crazy largely so middle managers can offload responsibility and redirect blame if something goes badly.. to have a scapegoat. They tend to favor commercial products because it’s impossible to hold FOSS volunteers accountable.

@stragu @EU_Commission @lightweight @humanetech The European management style is not to scapegoat, but managers have a bias for the look & feel of proprietary s/w like msword, and they expect everyone below them to use the tools they use. So because the managers use MS Word, the engineers down in the trenches must use that garbage too, instead of proper engineering tools which are largely in the FOSS domain.

@koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech I like the angle of 'loss of sovereignty'. The EU has given away, in practice, most of its sovereignty to US tech corporations which are literally in control of all of the levers of power. (The same is true in most other gov'ts of the world). Any anti-trust deposition against Microsoft is written in MSFT Word on computers totally controlled by the Microsoft Corporation. It's a sovereignty issue.See too: invidious.snopyta.org/watch?v=

@lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech Here in the USA, we have the same problems; I don't know that we could frame it as "loss of sovereignty" since Microsoft is based here, but all the effects are the same. Are there ways that Americans and Europeans can work together, and adopt like language, to fight this battle we both must fight?

@jgoerzen @lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission

I've tooted before about this group of institutions and organizations in the Netherlands who dedicate to breaking the stranglehold of MS and others.

They just started with a manifesto and a petition for Dutch government, focusing on lower education first.

eerlijkdigitaalonderwijs.petit

I'll CC @fsfe @waag and @ppdelft who are part of that group (see the petition for more participants)

@humanetech @lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @fsfe @waag @ppdelft I am very glad to see this! I have been at a loss really of how to proceed here, where my children are required to use locked-down, school-issued Chromebooks.

@jgoerzen @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight The problem with that battle is the US gov has been pimped to the tech giants. Just as banks, oil companies & the NRA finance republican war chests, tech giants finance the dems. And I don’t see US republicans going against tech giants either b/c they love giant corporations & republicans view everything as a competition (e.g. they see Microsoft dominance as US dominance).

@koherecoWatchdog @jgoerzen @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight

Think much can be done by going bottom up, and having some schools that have the freedom to host open software be examplary cases for others to follow.

Schools can't implement this alone and fostering an environment where small businesses and organizations help give proper support must be part of the equation.

In Netherlands we have that trend starting on the level of municipalities who are adopting FOSS-first policies.

@humanetech @lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @jgoerzen In the US it can be attacked from both ends, in principle. The US feds have a #FERPA law that’s supposed to protect the privacy of students nationwide. I believe schools are breaking that law by subjecting students to surveillance capitalism. The problem is the feds don’t enforce FERPA… it’s just a prop. So a top-down approach is to pressure the feds to enforce it.

@jgoerzen @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight @humanetech The bottom up approach needs to happen as well, but that will be quite slow. When a teacher is clung to Windows & teaching what they know, it could be a hard sell to get them to adopt both new philosophy and knowledge. It might even be more practical to get FOSS techies into teaching (a path I am considering).

@humanetech @lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @jgoerzen I asked a boss “why are we using MS Word and not LaTeX?” He said “because no one here knows LaTeX”. Then I asked a prof “why aren’t the students using LaTeX?” He said “because it’s not used in industry”. In this vicious cycle, I blame the school. The school should be /ahead/ of industry teaching what the industry needs to learn, not be a follower to industry.

@koherecoWatchdog @jgoerzen @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu yes, it's crazy, really. I wrote about the NZ situation (which is, I'm sure, pretty universal among gov'ts): davelane.nz/mshostage it's diabolical.

@lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech when your school kids use windows for all their machines its a safety/security issue with each vulnerability disclosure and ransom attack that shuts down a school or city gov

@lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech Wow. I love the way you framed the problem as a legal, practical one, rather than an economic, values or ethical opinion. I'll share this with two startup s that I'm pushing to adopt and data protections to partially mitigate these risks for students and s.

@hobson @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight US schools are even more reckless. Parents don’t even get a tickbox. In one school I read about, a teacher actually signed up for all the individual google accounts and agreed to all the terms, then distributed account credentials to the students. Google probably has a rule against on person having multiple accounts & password sharing.

@lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @hobson Wherever I read about that, the author was criticizing the idea that students would be held to terms they never read or agreed to. But I would think a court would find that the students are not bound by those terms & it’s not their account. It’s the school’s accounts and the school is bound by the ToS.

@hobson @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight Either way there’s a problem b/c the school likely breached the agreement the instant they created an account for the 2nd student on the roster. And if students aren’t bound they break the ToS all they want, and the school is liable.

@lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @hobson It’s a worthwhile angle of attack, but will it work? The outcome we would hope for is the school goes the FOSS direction. But another possible outcome is that Google creates an academic sitewide terms of service which still pushes the same policy, and schools simply mirror Google’s terms in the school’s code of conduct.

@hobson @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight If I were a pro-Google school admin, I would probably not only get an academic campuswide agreement w/Google, but then to fend off parents who don’t like my expansion of the code of conduct, I would give students the option to use a school account or to bring their own acct & write the digitech section of the code of conduct to apply only to school-provided accounts.

@koherecoWatchdog @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu @lightweight yea that's a real risk. Hard to beat Google legal team and their advocates on school boards.

@koherecoWatchdog @hobson @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu here in NZ, public schools have a statutory obligation to educate students in their 'zone'. If they impose software with a requirement to indemnify the supplier by accepting terms of use, parents always have the right to reject them... and, I believe the school is obliged to provide an alternative the parents do accept.

@lightweight @koherecoWatchdog @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu that's good, but it adds additional hurdles for you: outreach , education and SEO so that individual parents can see through the fog of the information bubble created by Google to portray their products in the best possible light and downrank all compeitiors (including FOSS). And they know more about parents and students than you do.

@hobson @koherecoWatchdog @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu that's possible... although I think Google's position is quite fragile. I sense that a general awakening about the dangers of surveillance capitalism will occur at some time, and from that point it'll result in incredible discomfort in most institutions in the wealthy parts of the world.

@lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @hobson How does the public school’s obligation to educate go when a school has a code of conduct? E.g. there’s probably a dress code, so what happens when girls try to go to school in transparent clothing, or lack of clothing? Or what about when a school admin wants to impose rules against porn or malware, for example, in a FOSS-centric school?

@koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @hobson good questions. There's a difference, though - those are 'first party' requirements, imposed by the school... but the Ts&Cs of Google/Microsoft are the school imposing a *third* party's requirements...

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@koherecoWatchdog @lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech I don't see the connection. ToS and Code of Conduct have different purposes & effect. A FOSS-based military academy can enforce whatever behavior norms they want that dont violate FOSS licensing (e.g. the Hippocratic, Do No Harm license). And a provider of services based on FOSS (like or a host) can create unrelated TOSes

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@koherecoWatchdog @lightweight @stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech What exactly are you suggesting as a strategy for school boards, parents, or prosocial businesses - those that want to combat the harm to students caused by big corp exploitation of students for profit?

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@lightweight @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu The GDPR should help claw back some of that sovereignty eventually because as far as surveillance capitalism goes the GDPR not only cuts down the data collection but it also bans data collected on Europeans from being stored on servers outside the EU.

@stragu @EU_Commission @humanetech @lightweight As far as running non-free platforms, we saw what happened in Munich. They switched to Ubuntu then switched back to MS when MS offered to move their HQ to Munich.

@koherecoWatchdog @stragu @EU_Commission @lightweight

Yes, that was a very unfortunate event.

But I also remember reading in a Hacker News discussion on this some time ago, that there was more at play than the lure of this move of HQ.

Can't remember specifics, but along lines of people that moved to Ubuntu were seriously struggling with the whole infra and apps being significantly different and alien to them, and the transition not being guided and prepared well enough to make it a success.

@humanetech @lightweight @EU_Commission @stragu I wonder if the take-away is that it was a mistake to convert all to Ubuntu in one giant step. Maybe they needed a baby steps where they take all servers toward FOSS and some desktops. Then also alter the hiring practices so they are only hiring people who are comfortable with Ubuntu.

@koherecoWatchdog @humanetech @EU_Commission @stragu I think the main problem was a lack of savvy on the part of the implementers of the Linux solution, and (probably moreso) the bottomless pockets of Microsoft who saw Munich as a 'canary in the coalmine'... if Munich switched successfully, the rest of the world would fall like dominoes. They engineered the failure.

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