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Cunliffe: Open Source Awards 2008

David Cunliffe

25 September, 2008
Open Source Awards 2008

It’s a pleasure to celebrate the successes of open source with you tonight.

I thought I’d set the mood tonight with some humour.

I heard recently that RedHat have developed an 'open source' beer called Red Brew. The recipes for making the beer are available for free over the Net, and microbrewery kits are available at low cost from Red Hat.

Apparently with the proliferation of free open source software, it was only a matter of time before open source beer became reality.

I’ve heard that other companies are now racing to launch their own beer 'distribution'. Caldera is developing an OpenBrew beer and Patrick Volkerding is working on a SlackBeer distribution.

Traditional breweries and beer distributors are not thrilled about open source beer. One brewery spokesperson was quoted as saying "This is ludicrous! People want beer that comes from time-tested, secret recipes - not beer from recipes invented overnight! Open source is a fad. The open source plague must be stopped before it eats into our bottom line!

I’m sure you’ll agree that free is best – so raise your glasses and drink to open source.

What I love about open source is how it epitomises everything us Kiwis are renowned for – innovation, creativity, and an innate ability to go beyond the realms of possibility.

The concept of open source is of course as old as the concept of communities where enthusiastic historians and elders have passed their lore onto new generations. Leaving a legacy of knowledge for future generations.

The scientific community has always been “open source”. The tradition of sharing discoveries and methods for testing is the basis for scientific endeavour. It builds on the need to validate one another’s work and refine and enhance it rather than reinvent the wheel.

This same concept of building on the foundations of knowledge has naturally passed into the ethos of ICT and indeed open source.

Open source gives us license to do what us Kiwis do best – to be creative. We have seized the opportunities it offers us all with enthusiasm and commitment.

Tonight's awards celebrate your achievements in both the creation, and use, of open source software and open content. Tonight is an opportunity to celebrate the advances and successes of open source, and what better time to do this.

Last month we released Digital Strategy 2.0. It’s a bold vision for a creative future. It recognises the profound opportunities digital technologies offer us.

As technologists you are well aware of both the potential challenges and changes that these opportunities offer us. Every person in this room is an important part of the transformation that digital technology continues to deliver.

You know the meaning of “transformation” perhaps better than anyone else in the industry. The open source approach has been – and continues to be – truly transformative.

Open source is the basis for cooperative development so that the best expertise are available to tackle the specific issues that users face.

Not so long ago it was a challenge to get across the concept of open source. Convincing people that that there was a living to be made through software that was free – in all senses of the word – was no small miracle probably likened to turning water into wine.

Now we’ve got a strong group of believers and the good news of the “open source religion” is spreading far and wide. The challenge left for you guys is to build on the foundations created by the early open source pioneers.

This means engaging directly with a global community of expertise and contributing back to open source projects.

This is both a vital and effective means the developing the kind of skills that will sustain the industry and enable tomorrow's businesses, schools, iwi, government agencies, and communities make the most of the technology available to them.

Forums, wikis and IRC chat are being adopted by more and more companies and government agencies. These are the tools that drive our open source communities and make them work so well.

We are seeing a greater willingness to “be open” and to recognise that there is wisdom in the crowd and in the cloud.

Those that really understand the importance of open source, also understand that the world has changed fundamentally. Whether as individuals or as organisations we operate in a profoundly interconnected and networked world.

By collaborating, by sharing, by removing the barriers between silos of interest, today's organisations can be an effective part of the so-called global “wealth of networks”.

In 1995, some 45 million people were online worldwide. By 1998, when Google first came online over 2 million domains had been registered. By 2004, there were about 70 million websites online.

In 2008 more and more of our lives are conducted online. How many of you here tonight can’t get through the day without chatting to your mates on Facebook or picking up the latest news headlines straight from your mobile?

By the time today's children have left school and joined the workforce, much more will have changed. We’ll be more networked, connected and responsive to the changes taking place around us.

Open source software has a particular potential to benefit New Zealand. A recent EU study has shown that open software development can encourage the creation of SMEs and new software businesses.

When you see monumental works like the Linux operating system come together and move forward so rapidly, you would do well to ask: what can we learn from all this?

How can hundreds of people from the four corners of the globe produce something that a single company with vast resources still struggles to do?

The power of networks. Networks of technology, and networks of people.

Or to put it somewhat differently – plain old-fashioned barn-raising.

It costs practically nothing to move digital goods around. It costs precisely nothing to make the next copy of something you already have.

New Zealand not only has a wealth of talent to share in the field of open source, we have a wealth of heritage and culture to enjoy – much of it now born-digital - music, photography, film, the written word.

There is no culture without sharing, without distribution of our works between us. Initiatives like Creative Commons have arisen from much the same thinking that has fuelled free and open source software.

The pace of open source development is truly breathtaking, and shows no signs of abating.

Some of you here tonight pioneered the open technologies that now serve our country so well. Some of you have just begun to do great things with open source. All of you have much to celebrate tonight. Thank you.


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