Can you change society with free software? Red Hat chief executive Matthew Szulik, along with several other speakers here at the Red Hat Summit in New Orleans, seem to think so.
In an interview with vnunet.com, Szulik lashed out at the technology industry for being obsessed with money.
"Your work should be valuable to society," he said. "Somewhere the tech industry lost the way. Developers really see open source software as a way to improve society, not to stuff their pockets."
That's why Red Hat is looking to hire people that aren't just out to get "a bigger car".
Open source as a way of sharing knowledge is catching on everywhere, according to Szulik. Scientists, for instance, are revolting against publishing companies that overcharge for their books, thereby preventing the free flow of information.
"It's happening everywhere. Economic models have to change. The work has to be used to improve society," he said.
Szulik's point became all too clear in a session later on Thursday by Deepak Phatak, a professor at the Kanwal Rekhi School of Information Technology, Indian Institute of Technology in Bombay, India.
He sees open source software as an essential tool in furthering the economic development of India.
Open source can help lower the cost of technology, giving more end users access to computers. "The challenge is to use the open source model for knowledge sharing. That is far more important than the software part," Phatak said.
India currently has only 14 million PCs. Most people simply can't afford to purchase one.
To increase that number, Phatak developed a thin client for enterprises that uses open source software and has a total cost of ownership of only $320 over three years.
Today only a few software engineers in India develop open source software. But that will change. "We will provide 25,000 developers annually to work on open source," Phatak promised. "By 2008 we wish to be a net giver." (Meaning that India gives more code to open source than it uses code written by developers in other nations.)
Szulik during his opening keynote on Wednesday at the Red Hat Summit in New Orleans.
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