I am not aware of any Linux Users Group (LUG) being active in informing it’s members of how the policies of the various political parties compare with regard to free software and the other issues that are of interest to most members. I believe that this is a grave mistake.
Shortly before an election there are many social groups that send lists of questions to all the parties. They ask about the policies the parties have in regard to the issues that they care about, and helpfully mention the number of members that will receive the response. This of course doesn’t mean that every member of the group in question will cast their vote in the same way, merely that they will take note of the answers.
The committee members of the parties in question will then decide how to answer the questions and whether policy should be tweaked to allow answers that the lobby groups will like. So this process not only helps members of a group make informed voting decisions related to issues that they care about, but it also helps political parties choose policies that are least offensive to the group in question.
Here is a draft of a list of questions that I think should be asked of all political parties on behalf of Linux users:
- It is important for all citizens to access all government data without being forced to buy new software or hardware, open standards allow everyone to access the data with free software. Do you support the use of open standards for data on government web sites and other forms of electronic communication between government agencies and citizens?
- For long term archival of records it is important that file formats remain readable. The only effective way of doing this is to use open file formats that are implemented in free software. Do you support mandating that all data submitted to government agencies (by citizens or corporations) be in open file formats wherever possible?
- In these difficult economic times there is a great interest in keeping jobs in the country instead of sending money overseas. To what extent do you support the use of free software that is installed and managed by locals (keeping the money in the economy) instead of importing software at great taxpayer expense?
- Commercial software has a limited support period, after that time has elapsed there is no further support and systems become increasingly unreliable. Do you support mandating that all systems relating to the emergency services run on free software to allow quality long-term support by local citizens?
- There has been a lot of concern recently about the spread of child-porn. The best available evidence shows that insecure home PCs that run “Trojan Horse” programs are a key part of distributing it and other illegal material. Do you support the introduction of government programs to train parents in installing one of the more secure free operating systems on their home PC to protect their children?
This is just a rough draft. Obviously there needs to be local differences (EG don’t use point 3 in the US because MS brings money into the US economy).
Does anyone have any suggestions for other questions?