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Internet call is an 'Open Source' opportunity

4 August 2004

United Future Internet call is an 'Open Source' opportunity

Green MP Nandor Tanczos is welcoming United Future's call for the Government to fund firewalls for school PCs, but says an Open Source product implemented locally would allow a more flexible approach to inappropriate online behaviour and ensure filtering decisions are made in New Zealand.

"Bernie Ogilvy is right that the Government must provide funding to schools for Internet security," said Nandor, the Greens' IT spokesperson.

"However, if the firewalls and filters are an imported proprietary product we will be surrendering control of what our children and youth can see to overseas governments and multinational corporations. Instead, this would an excellent opportunity for the Government to support the New Zealand software industry.

"An Open Source product implemented locally would allow educational institutions to not only decide for themselves which sites they will allow their students and staff access to, but also track internet usage and respond in a non-punitive way if students are straying into dangerous territory.

"Simply suspending students who visit inappropriate websites does nothing to develop young people's ability to critically assess what they view online. If schools are able to keep tabs on which sites are being visited, they can tailor their media lessons for whole classes to how students are using the net and head off dangerous behaviour and encourage positive lines of inquiry.

"Open Source would also make it easier to maintain a central and easily manageable registry within New Zealand of both the URLs of inappropriate websites for outright blocking and key words and phrases for content filtering. This is the logical extension of Mr Ogilvy's call for a centralised system for reporting 'incidents'

"With proprietary filtering software, students' access to information that is considered controversial elsewhere but is acceptable here, or vice versa, is outside the control of their schools. For instance, some of our secondary schools may consider it appropriate for older students to have access to women's health info, but such websites may be blocked by proprietary software because of conservative religious opinions in the US.

"The New Zealand Open Source software industry has been calling for the Government to 'buy local' for sometime so as to level the playing field against large international software companies. District Health Boards recently called for Government support for Open Source software in their area because of the ballooning costs of licensing proprietary software. A Ministry of Education tender to develop Open Source firewall and filtering software would provide the leg-up that a local company needs to develop such software for the general New Zealand market," said Nandor.


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