Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Internet law expert Lawrence Lessig, a founder of Creative Commons, will speak at Africa’s first Digital Freedom Expo to be held at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) in April.
The Expo aims to promote the use of Free Software and free or open content, including showcasing the business opportunities created by free operating systems, applications and tools.
“Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is no longer just the domain of hackers and idealists,” says Professor Derek Keats of UWC’s Information & Communication Services, which is hosting the Expo.
“Free Software applications, tools and operating systems are now a critical part of our computing and communications infrastructure. It is not just the software itself which is important, but also the development methodologies, culture and business practices that have sprung up around it.
Keats explains that the “free” in free software is about freedom, not just money. “It’s about the freedom to use the software for any purpose you want, study how it works, modify it and share with others. In the same way, free or open content is available for anyone to use, modify, and share.
"Major computing industry players such as IBM, HP, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and Novell have discovered the value of the FOSS business model and are now important members of the FOSS community," he says.
Keats says Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia which anyone can contribute to and edit, is the world’s leading example of the power of free content. Started in 2001, Wikipedia has over 1,5-million articles in its English version and there are also versions in 250 other languages including Tibetan, Sanskrit, Afrikaans and Zulu. It receives tens of millions of hits daily.
“Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales and Lawrence Lessig are two of the world’s most influential thinkers about the sharing of knowledge and culture,” says Keats. “It will be a tremendous privilege to have them both attending Africa’s first Digital Freedom Expo.”
The Digital Freedom Expo, to be run concurrently with UWC’s annual Careers Expo, is open to all learners, businesses and interested members of the public.
“We want to show people the incredible opportunities that the Free and Open Source movements have created,” says Keats. “People can do more than they ever thought possible, even with the most basic computing equipment. To take just one example, free software can transform an old Pentium II computer headed for the scrap heap into an Internet-enabled video editor.
“There also will be plenty of examples of business opportunities created by Free and Open Source Software, and educational opportunities created by Free and Open Content,” Keats adds. “We will also demonstrate music and art that are licensed under free and open licenses. Anybody who has an example to share is invited to come and exhibit.”
The Expo will be held at the UWC campus on 19 and 20 April. More information is available at http://digitalfreedom.uwc.ac.za.