A software developer's life can get lonely. Developers spend a lot of time immersed in their code, and often don't get to see the direct impact of their work on the users. That is why events like Randa Meetings are necessary. They help build bonds within the community and show the developers that their work is appreciated.
Randa Meetings are crucial to the KDE community for developer interaction, brainstorming, and bringing great new things to KDE. --- Scarlett Clark
Randa Meetings are a yearly collection of KDE Community contributor sprints that take place in Randa, Switzerland. With origins dating back to a Plasma meeting in 2009, Randa is one of the most important developer-related events in the community.
This year, Randa Meetings were held from September 10 to September 16, and were centered around a meaningful theme - accessibility.
Accessibility in Free and Open Source Software
Accessibility is incredibly important, yet so often neglected in the process of software development, and implemented almost as an afterthought. Users with disabilities and impairments often find themselves excluded from using the software, and prevented from participating in activities that the rest of us take for granted. Essentially, the software makes them feel as if they don't matter.
To remedy this, many governments enforce laws requiring software to be accessible. There are also accessibility standards, guidelines, and checklists to help developers make their software accessible to all.
FOSS communities and projects have the potential to play a major role in driving software accessibility efforts because of their open nature. People with disabilities can communicate directly with developers, report issues, and request features that they need. Proprietary products are rarely this open to feedback, not to mention the fact they are often very expensive.
Assistive technology covers a wide range of products and solutions: from screen magnifiers, screen readers, and text prediction methods to text-to-speech interfaces, speech recognition software, and simplified computer interfaces. There are also advanced solutions like 3D-printed prosthetic limbs, and those that allow controlling the mouse by moving the head or just the eyes.
The best thing about all this technology is that it benefits everyone. Although people usually associate the word "accessibility" with hearing or visually impaired people, assistive technology can make life easier for many other groups: dyslexic or illiterate people, cognitively disabled people, the elderly, anyone with limited mobility or just bad eyesight.
The analogy is clear with wheelchair-accessible spaces, which are useful to parents with baby strollers, people with bicycles and shopping carts, and delivery drivers. Likewise, improving keyboard navigation, image and color contrast, and text-to-speech tools results in satisfaction among non-disabled users. Making software accessible means making software better.
Making KDE Software More Accessible
Generally speaking, there are two ways to make software accessible: either by building special accessibility-focused tools from scratch, or by implementing accessibility features and improvements into existing applications. The latter is what the Randa Meetings 2017 were all about.
The developers created a useful KWin plugin that can simulate different types of color blindness. This will help in all future accessibility efforts, as it helps developers understand what their color schemes will look like to visually impaired users.
KMyMoney was made more accessible via improvements to keyboard navigation. New keyboard shortcuts were added, and others simplified to make them easier to use.
Randa Meetings 2017 were made special by Manuel, a visitor from Italy who stayed at the Randa house during the sprint. Manuel is a deaf user, and he took the time to explain the problems that hearing-impaired users encounter with KDE software, and software in general. His feedback was extremely valuable in the context of the sprint's theme, and helped developers come up with accessibility-oriented solutions.
Meeting in Randa with other participants makes you aware of deficiencies, possibilities, and needs. For a newcomer, like myself, it was also a chance to meet some community members, see what kind of people build KDE software, and take a look behind the scenes. --- Lukasz Wojnilowicz
Apart from fixing individual applications, a lot of work was done on the Plasma desktop environment itself. Accessibility-related improvements include the ability to navigate the Plasma panel using voice feedback and the keyboard. The following video demonstrates this feature in action:
KRunner was made completely accessible, and this change is visible in Plasma 5.11. The Orca Screen Reader works well with KRunner, and can read the entered query, as well as let the user know which element of the interface is currently focused.
There was also a round of discussions on best practices for accessibility in KDE software. When testing software, the developers should try to use it only with their keyboard, and then only with the mouse. Too much customization is not a good idea, so it should be avoided, especially when it comes to colors, fonts, and focus handling.
Another good practice is to test the application with a screen reader. This experience should highlight potential issues for disabled users. In the end, it all comes down to empathy - being able to put yourself in the user's shoes, and the willingness to make your software available to as many people as possible, without excluding anyone.
More Plans and Achievements from the Randa Meetings 2017
Of course, the developers worked on so much more than just accessibility. The KDE PIM team discussed the results of their KMail User Survey, and tackled the most pressing issue reported by the uses - broken and unreliable search. They also ported the entire Kontact codebase away from the obsolete KDateTime component.
KMyMoney saw some important changes. All plugin KCM modules were ported to KF5. The backup feature is, well, back up and available to use, and database loading was improved so as to prevent the incompatibility between new and old KMyMoney files.
After successfully participating in Google Summer of Code, the digiKam team gathered in Randa to further polish the new code contributed by students. They also worked on the media server functionality, which allows users to share their photo collections across different devices (smartphones, tablets, TVs...) using DLNA.
The developers of Kube worked on resolving an annoying issue with live queries which slows down email synchronization, especially when there are thousands of emails. They also discussed the possibility of implementing an HTML composer to edit emails in Kube, and made plans for GPG implementation. In collaboration with developers from other KDE projects, they explored the options for making Kube cross-platform, and looked for the best way to build Kube on macOS and Windows. Finally, they implemented a visualization in the configuration dialog which indicates when the user input is invalid in configuration fields.
Last but not least, Kdenlive received color correction improvements, and the developers worked on bringing back the popular TypeWriter effect. They also fixed the import of image sequences, worked on porting Kdenlive to Windows and macOS, and removed the warning about missing DVD tools that used to appear when starting Kdenlive for the first time.
Looking Forward to the Next Randa Meetings
With another successful Randa Meetings behind us, we can start planning for the next session.
If you like the work our developers are doing, you can directly support it by donating to KDE. You can also contribute to KDE and make an impact on the users by joining our mentored project called Season of KDE.
Who knows, maybe in the future you too will attend the Randa Meetings!
The KDE community has spoken and it has chosen the proposals which will define the general direction of the KDE project over the next three or four years.
How does the KDE community decide where it wants to take the project? Well, every once in a while, we hold a Request for Proposals, if you will. All members of the community are encouraged to submit their grand ideas which will lay out long-term targets. Proposals are voted on democratically, again, by the community. This ensures it is truly the community that guides the KDE project to wherever the community wants it to go.
This year, the three most voted proposals have been:
Nate Graham proposes improving the usability of KDE's software and making it more accessible and user-friendly for a wider variety of users. Nate argues that, although KDE apps and environments in general boast a "long list of features that are genuinely useful for normal people's typical use cases", small but noticeable inconsistencies and niggling usability issues sometimes mar KDE's semblance of maturity with casual users.
Nate reasons that focusing on irksome details of the most common and commonly used of KDE's software, such as Plasma, Dolphin, Okular and Discover, would be the first step towards polishing the whole. He mentions, for example, the annoying bug that makes Plasma require the Wifi password twice; or enhancements that can be made to Dolphin to support column view or colourised files and directories, like MacOS X's file browser sports; or improving Okular's stamp feature to make it suitable for digitally signing documents.
KDE's environments and applications are mature and usable to a great extent, but by getting small incremental improvements, we can nearly subliminally improve the overall feel of the project and increase its uptake with the general public.
In synch with KDE's vision, Sebastian Kugler says that "KDE is in a unique position to offer users a complete software environment that helps them to protect their privacy". Being in that position, Sebastian explains, KDE as a FLOSS community is morally obliged to do its utmost to provide the most privacy-protecting environment for users.
This is especially true since KDE has been developing not only for desktop devices, but also for mobile - an area where the respect for users' privacy is nearly non-existent. Sebastian thinks that the intrusion on users’ personal lives is very dangerous. Users can have their livelihood and even personal safety put at risk when their confidential data makes its way into the hands of unscrupulous companies or hostile government agencies.
To make sure KDE environment and apps protect users’ privacy, Sebastian lists several measures that developers can implement. He proposes that applications not expose private data by default, asking the user for explicit consent before sending data to third parties. Other measures would involve apps using privacy-protecting protocols when communicating with the outside world; say, a widget should use Tor to collect weather information. Applications should also only require the bare minimum user information to operate and only when it is essential.
Finally, the proposal explains that KDE must provide the right tools to further safeguard users' privacy. These tools include email clients that offer easy ways of encrypting messages, privacy-protecting chat and instant messaging protocols and clients, and support for online services that can be implemented on personal servers.
Although we have made many improvements to KDE's development infrastructure and tools over the years, there are still several things we can do to streamline the access for contributors, says Neofytos Kolokotronis. Thinking of ways to get more people involved in the development, Neofytos proposes measures to simplify newcomer participation within KDE.
KDE is a living community and, as such, it is threatened if new users do not become contributors and therefore do not join its ranks, bringing in new blood and fresh ideas. To solve this potential problem, Neofytos wants the community to look at methods of incrementing user involvement. This will require analysing the available resources, especially the people and time that they can invest in this effort.
He also proposes KDE improve and standardise protocols for accepting and mentoring new users, as well as correcting issues with documentation and tools used to receive new contributions, such as KDE's bug tracking system.
The KDE community will start implementing the proposals into concrete actions and policies. The proposals will shape how the KDE community creates software and works with its members, as well as with outside users. In view of the winning ideas, we can expect a more polished KDE experience, enhanced privacy protection and a more accessible and welcoming community for years to come.
To make sure all KDE's goals are met, we need your support. Head over to the End of Year fundraiser (coming soon!) and help us meet our yearly funding target. You can contribute to the success of KDE and we will also show appreciation with karma and gifts!
On the 4th and the 5th of November, the FOSSCOMM 2017 conference took place at Harokopio University of Athens, Greece. The KDE Community had a presence at the conference. Our Greek troops gave a talk on Sunday about the past, present and future of KDE, focusing on the vision of the community.
What is FOSSCOMM?
FOSSCOMM (Free and Open Source Software Communities Meeting) is an annual conference about free software organized by the Greek Free Software community. The main purpose of the conference is the promotion of free software, as well as social interaction between community members. During the first weekend of November, a great number of free software contributors and advocates gathered in Athens to discuss many interesting topics related to free software and open standards.
In addition, several Greek software communities promoted their work and values at the booths and by hosting workshops. The conference was a success, since a lot of people participated in various conference activities, confirming the significant impact of freedom and openness to the Greek society, especially among young people.
KDE at FOSSCOMM
Throughout the weekend, our KDE Community members talked about KDE-related topics, especially at the Nextcloud booth. We also sought out actions that could promote the KDE Community in Athens.
On Sunday afternoon, we gave a presentation about KDE in the main amphitheater of Harokopio University. After listing the milestones from the 20 years of KDE history, we defined what KDE represents today, and briefly presented the software that the KDE Community creates.
Afterwards, we analyzed KDE Vision. We discussed the reasons that led to its creation and the purpose that it serves, focusing on the social impact of our work and our community values.
Regarding our initiative to improve the impact of KDE in Greece, we created the KDE el Telegram group . Before concluding our talk, we suggested to everyone interested in KDE values and Plasma software to participate in the newly created group.
We hope that this communication channel will constitute a starting point for the KDE Community in Greece to come together, communicate their contributions, and promote KDE and free software in general.
Inspired by this post and by the creation of the Telegram group, several Greek-speaking KDE users and contributors decided to collaborate on developing a stronger KDE community among the Greek-speaking audience, and further promote KDE's work. After a fruitful discussion, the team decided to facilitate participation from additional media that correspond to our values, as this can help in reaching a wider community.
As a result, we created the 'kde-el' Matrix room.
The existing kde-el Freenode IRC channel is now bridged to both the Matrix and the Telegram groups.
The Greek-speaking KDE team can now be reached via:
ΙRC: #kde-el at freenode
Telegram: KDE el
Although the turnout on Sunday was not as high as on Saturday, many students, contributors and free software enthusiasts attended our talk. Since the timeline was quite strict, there was no time for questions from the audience.
Nevertheless, the impact of our talk was quite positive, since several people approached us looking for more information about the material we presented. According to the feedback from attendees, the decision to introduce a privacy- and freedom-oriented mobile paradigm seems to be more than welcome.
Participating in meetings like FOSSCOMM is quite helpful for KDE as well as for the free software community in general. Talking with people from different communities, getting introduced to interesting open projects, and envisaging a world of freedom is always a revitalizing and encouraging way to keep going! Finally, we would like to thank FOSSCOMM volunteers and organizers for being so helpful and managing to host quite a successful event.
KDE Student Programs is pleased to announce the 2018 Season of KDE for those who want to participate in mentored projects that enhance KDE in some way.
Every year since 2013, KDE Student Programs has been running Season of KDE as a program similar to, but not quite the same as Google Summer of Code, offering an opportunity to everyone (not just students) to participate in both code and non-code projects that benefits the KDE ecosystem. In the past few years, SoK participants have not only contributed new application features but have also developed the KDE Continuous Integration System, statistical reports for developers, a web framework, ported KDE Applications, created documentation and lots and lots of other work.
For this year’s Season of KDE, we are shaking things up a bit and making a host of changes to the program.
The 2018 Season of KDE will have more flexible schedule options for participants. They will now have the opportunity to choose between a shorter sprint project where the working period lasts 40 days or the usual full duration project with a working period of 80 days.
The timeline is: 1st - 26th December 2017: Participant and Mentor Application Period 30th December 2017: Projects Announced 1st January 2018, 00:00 UTC: Official SoK Work Period Begins 9th February 2018, 23:59 UTC: End of Work Period (40 day projects) 21st March 2018, 23:59 UTC: End of Work Period (80 day projects) 25th March 2018: Results Announced 31st March 2018: Certificates issued and sent out
Beginning of Q3 2018: Merchandise and Schwag sent out by courier
For the first time, we are now welcoming applications from teams of up to 2 people to participate in the same project. Teams may only participate in full 80-day projects. Shorter sprint projects are still only open to individual participants.
Do you want to see KDE software work well on other operating systems? Do you want KDE applications to integrate better with another desktop environment? Do you want to see applications from elsewhere integrate better with KDE?
In the 2018 Season of KDE, we are specially looking out for projects that can help integrate KDE better with other free software projects. We welcome mentors from other projects who’d like to help our participants in their efforts and encourage applications from participants who’d like to work on such a project. Participants will need to have a fairly reasonable grip on both KDE and the partner organisation’s projects, as well as a point of contact in the other organisation that can offer support throughout the duration of the project.
If you are from another FOSS Project, have a concrete idea of something SoK participants can implement and would like to mentor them for it, please get in touch with us directly.
A Grand Prize
The 2018 Season of KDE will accept a maximum of 6 projects. We will score each project based on objective criteria, and after completion of the project, the one with the highest score will win this year’s Season of KDE.
The participants from the winning project will have a chance to attend Akademy 2018, KDE’s annual world conference, which will be held in Vienna from August 11th - 17th, 2018. All travel and stay expenses will be paid for by KDE. At Akademy, you will have the chance to meet people from all around the world who make KDE possible, present your project to them, mingle with some of the brightest minds in the world of free software, and lose yourself in one of Europe’s historic centers of music and culture.
Prospective participants are advised to get in touch with us even before the application period begins to discuss possible projects. You can connect with us at #kde-soc on IRC, via our mailing lists, or contact the maintainer of an application you want to work on (or the specific team) directly.
If you’re looking for project ideas, you can find some on our Google Summer of Code 2018 Ideas Page. Prospective mentors are requested to add ideas to this page, so that we have a central repository of project ideas that may be used for both the 2018 Season of KDE and GSoC 2018.
Participants and mentors can apply here once applications open.
The conference is expected to draw hundreds of attendees from the global KDE Community to discuss and plan the future of the Community and its technology. Many participants from the broad free and open source software community, local organizations and software companies will also attend.
Akademy 2018 is being organized with Fachschaft Informatik (FSINF). Apart from representing and counseling computer science students, FSINF engage in diverse political activities, such as FOSS activism, privacy and social justice, and so on.
Akademy 2018 Program
Akademy 2018 will start with a 2-day conference on Sat 11th of August and Sunday 12th of August, followed by 5 days of workshops, Birds of a Feather (BoF) and coding sessions.
Vienna and Akademy
Vienna, the capital of Austria, has around 1.8 million inhabitants. It is located in the middle of Central Europe, on the banks of the river Danube. With it's rich history that stretches back to Roman times. It was once the capital city of the Habsburg Empire ans is now a modern city, rated number one in diverse studies on quality of living.
TU Wien and Akademy
Almost all buildings of TU Wien are very close to the city center. From the venue a 10 minute walk will bring you directly to the inner city. Around 30,000 students study at Tu Wien, of which 6000 study Computer Science.
For most of the year, KDE—one of the largest free and open software communities in the world — works on-line by email, IRC, forums and mailing lists. Akademy provides all KDE contributors the opportunity to meet in person to foster social bonds, work on concrete technology issues, consider new ideas, and reinforce the innovative, dynamic culture of KDE. Akademy brings together artists, designers, developers, translators, users, writers, sponsors and many other types of KDE contributors to celebrate the achievements of the past year and help determine the direction for the next year. Hands-on sessions offer the opportunity for intense work bringing those plans to reality. The KDE Community welcomes companies building on KDE technology, and those that are looking for opportunities. For more information, please contact The Akademy Team.
Between the 7th and 9th October the KDE Edu team met in the Endocode offices in Berlin to work on and plan KDE's educational software.
We split up the work into three general areas: organization, infrastructure and coding.
The KDE Edu team is diverse in that there are different people interested in different tools. A sprint such as this one is the ideal meeting place to work on making sure that we are headed in the same direction. We discussed the website and how we present our projects to the outside world. We also covered improvements to our usage of Phabricator and our roles on the different goals we set for ourselves. We wanted to make sure all our members are aware and on board with them.
One of the interesting perks of having your project in KDE, besides meeting amazing teams such as ours, is that we can provide you with tools that will benefit the rest of KDE software. You can find educational software users on every platform, and we don't want to leave anyone behind. That's why we spent some time figuring out how to make sure our applications would also reach Windows and Android in the best of conditions. We also looked into our Flatpak packages to discover what the showstoppers are and to make improvements. At some point we will be able to offer fresh and stable versions of our software right into everybody's device.
And of course, we coded. Meetings are great for discussions, but it's also nice to be able to sit with your friends, in front of a laptop with a warm coffee, and start looking into the issues that have been holding us back. We pushed improvements for Cantor and its integration with several languages, we released a new version of KTuberling for Android, and a new GCompris version for classrooms. We worked on Marble's routing features and got Minuet running on Windows.
All in all, the sprint helped us push forward and overcome some crucial roadblocks. Now the apps in KDE Edu are better than ever.
"We are very happy to have the Private Internet Access/London Trust Media as a KDE Patron and KDE e.V. Advisory Board member. The values of Internet openness are deeply rooted in both organisations, as well as those of privacy and security. Working together will allow us to build better systems and a better Internet for everyone", said Aleix Pol Gonzalez, Vice-President of the KDE e.V.
"Private Internet Access is highly committed to giving back to those communities that have helped the brand and its parent company get to where it is today, and we are very much aware that vast proportions of the infrastructure we use on a daily basis, in the office and at home, is powered by Free and Open Source Software. We have made a pledge to show our gratitude by supporting FOSS projects to help encourage development and growth. We are proud to be supporting KDE and the crucial work that the project does for the Linux Desktop" said Christel Dahlskjear, Director of Sponsorships and Events at Private Internet Access.
Private Internet Access provides VPN services specializing in secure, encrypted VPN tunnels. Those tunnels create several layers of privacy and security for a more effective safety for users on the Internet. Private Internet Access's VPN Service is backed by multiple gateways worldwide, with VPN Tunnel access in 25+ countries and 37+ regions.
Private Internet Access will join KDE's other Patrons: The Qt Company, SUSE, Google, Blue Systems and Canonical to continue supporting Free Software and KDE development through the KDE e.V.
The motto of our space at QtWS this year has been "Power up!". We put it into practice in more than one way and in the most literal of senses.
First we designed our allocated space so that attendees could come, sit and relax, and recover their energies. We made sure there was ample sitting space with comfy cushions in an open and informal atmosphere.
We also wanted to make it easy for visitors to power up their devices, so we placed plugs and USB charging stations all over our booth. Our visitors came, sat, chatted, re-charged their bodies, minds and devices, while at the same time finding out why KDE is the driving force behind many a software project. This turned out to be winning idea. A lot of people came by the "Power up!" space, and the buzz gave us the chance to demonstrate exactly how KDE could also power up their software and hardware projects. Many still perceive KDE exclusively as the creator of a desktop, but, at the ripe age of twenty, KDE is much more than that.
Twenty years of development means that KDE has made many different kinds of software. Primary device UI, end-user apps, communication apps, business apps, content creation apps, mobile apps, and on and on. This means we have had to solve many problems and create many libraries in the process. Our libraries complement Qt and are very easy to use by any Qt-based application. Many have few or no dependencies aside from Qt itself. These libraries are free to use and licensed in a way that is compatible even with commercial apps. They also run on many different platforms.
To leverage all the libraries and frameworks we have created, we have also built many development tools, including a full IDE that supports both static and dynamic languages (KDevelop), an advanced editor especially designed for developers (Kate), debugging tools (Kdbg, Massif Visualizer), etc. They all support Qt and C++ and again run on a variety of platforms.
Our most valuable asset is our community. The KDE community is the real power behind KDE's projects. The community fosters personal and professional development, helping programmers become better Qt developers in a welcoming environment. Also, just by contributing to KDE, you get to help us decide where we should take our projects next and help us keep KDE code up-to-date and secure.
To prove our point, we had on display two examples of how KDE powers much more than desktop devices. We showed off the Pinebook running Plasma Desktop. The Pinebook is a low-cost ultra-netbook (only $99 for the 14'' version) built around the Pine, an ARM-based 64 bit single board computer -- similar to a the Raspberry Pi, but more powerful. The Pinebook is not only a good example of a cheap machine you can take anywhere, but also of how KDE technologies can provide a full-fledged working environment on all sorts of devices.
To drive the matter home even more, visitors were also able to play with Plasma Mobile, our environment for smartphones. Plasma Mobile has been in the news recently thanks to the fact that Purism, manufacturers of high-end laptops that come with Linux pre-installed, and KDE have agreed to work together on the Librem 5, an open and privacy-respecting smartphone. As the Librem 5 hasn't been built yet, at QtWS 2017 we showed how Plasma Mobile works fine on an off-the-shelf device; in this case, a Nexus 5x. Plasma Mobile running on an actual device is living and breathing proof of the power KDE delivers to developers.
Thanks to Halium, for example, you can sit different graphical environments (including Plasma Mobile) on top of an Android base, and Halium will manage communication between the graphical environment and the kernel. Then we have Kirigami, a framework that helps developers create apps that will work within all sorts of environments, not only on the Plasma Desktop. With Kirigami, you can deliver apps to the two Plasmas, Desktop and Mobile, Windows, MacOS X, Android, and iOS.
These powerful technologies are developed and maintained by KDE, and are examples of how KDE can power up your projects.
Purism, Todd's company, produces the Librem computers, laptops with components that, where possible, are guaranteed to be respectful of the user's privacy. Their covers sport two hardware kill-switches, for example. One shuts off the camera. The other closes down WiFi and Bluetooth.
And, although not all components are open hardware, Purism is perfectly transparent about this, recognizes it's not ideal, and aims to replace them when it becomes possible. Purism's ultimate aim is to achieve what they call Purism Purist state, in which every single chip and board is totally free and open, with all the schematics published under a free licence.
Naturally, the Librem laptops come with GNU/Linux pre-installed.
Now, Purism has set its aims on the smartphone market. Unhappy with the dominance of a few gigantic (and gigantically powerful) multinational corporations that actively crush any competition and leech data from customers wholesale, Todd and his team are raising money to fund a phone that, like the Librem laptops, is as free and open as possible, and respects users' privacy.
This aligns well with KDE's vision of what software should do for the users, and we are actively developing Plasma Mobile, which right now is at a stage where the platform actually works. It seemed logical that we should team up with Purism and work towards the common goal of creating a free and open, commercially viable smartphone.
It is true that Purism has not committed to any given platform yet. What they have done is agreed to help KDE adapt Plasma Mobile to their device, and for that they are committing resources, human and otherwise.
This is a win on both sides. KDE gets to try out Plasma Mobile on a device without having to go through all the guesswork of reverse engineering undocumented hardware. Purism gets to test-run Plasma Mobile on their device and help steer its development so it is fully supported. This gives Plasma Mobile a good chance of becoming the default interface for the Librem 5, although that decision is ultimately one Purism has to take.
However, our first step is to help make the Librem 5 a reality. The success of the crowdfunding effort will be a net gain for the Free Software community regardless of which environment finally gets to run on the hardware.
This is a step we cannot take alone. Support the crowdfunding campaign and you won't only help us succeed, but you can also become part of the project: donate now and you can get your hands on developer kits and early-bird devices!
Public institutions spend millions of Euros every year for the development of new software that is specifically tailored to their needs.
Unfortunately, most of this software is closed source.
This means that your tax money is being used to pay for software that cannot be modified or even studied. Most public institutions pay to develop programs that they do not or cannot release to the public. When other institutions need to solve similar problems, they have to develop the same software again. And each time the public - including you - has to foot the bill.
Paying a company to provide closed software also leads to vendor lock-in. Vendor lock-in is when an institution contracts a certain provider and later discovers it is very hard to switch to another one.
Companies with a stranglehold on an institution can artificially restrict usage and features of their products. They can forbid you to install their programs on more than a handful of computers, disable saving your work in a certain format, or hike the prices of licenses for no reason.
The biggest problem, however, is the safety of your data.
Closed software makes solving flaws especially hard and expensive. Even if you know how to solve its vulnerabilities, you would not be legally allowed to do so. Many branches of our public administration often have to keep running insecure software because they cannot afford to pay for the newer version.
Furthermore, closed source providers often include in their software code that collects data they have no business in collecting. This data can end up in the power of foreign security agencies, sold to unscrupulous advertising companies, or worse.
How can we put our trust in public bodies if they don't have full control over the software they are using? Shouldn't your money be used to develop software that benefits you and other citizens?
The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) thinks it should - and we at KDE Community agree.
That is why we are supporting the FSFE campaign called Public Money? Public Code!.
The campaign proposes that all software financed with public money should be distributed as Free Software.
Although publishing/sharing publicly funded software under a free licence generates great benefits for governments and civil society, policy makers are still reluctant to move forward with decisive legislation. The purpose of this campaign is to convince them.
With Free Software, independent researchers can report earlier on errors, before even miscreants can use them. Experts from anywhere can provide solutions for applications because they can study the code. They can also audit the software to eliminate backdoors or other malicious code.
By using Free Software, citizens' data is kept safer and the chances of successful attacks from criminals goes down. Free Software can also be used as the foundation for better applications, building upon it to create more efficient and safer programs.
In short, Free Software can help us build a better society for everyone.
Join the Campaign!
More than 30 organizations and individuals have already endorsed the campaign, including Edward Snowden, President of Freedom of the Press Foundation.
You, too, can join the "Public Money? Public Code!" campaign. Sign the open letter that explains to politicians and policy makers why using public money to fund public code is a good idea. FSFE will send it to political representatives several times over the next months.
You can also share the link to the campaign website on social media and online forums. Send it to your friends and coworkers, and encourage them to sign the open letter.
Spread the word about the campaign by writing about it on your website, or by contacting the media in your country.
Show that you care about the future of digital infrastructure, because you will be paying for it one way or another.