The fight to be fought


Every Swecha Volunteer.

The Free Software Movement challenged a Goliath that is the non-free proprietary software and largely, it won that battle. Increasingly, "Open Source" is the paradigm being adopted by makers of software all around the world. Not only that, wherever there are proprietary alternatives, more often than not, there are free (as in freedom of course) ones.

But, is the fight over ?. No, it has moved to another level. This reminds me of how encryption works : AES, RSA, DES are all publicly available algorithms. Everybody knows the code; What is the missing puzzle piece ? : The keys. In a cruel irony, the penetration of computing and software (Which would not have been possible with out free software) created this vast user base which then created the scenario which we all need to deal with : Data.

From multitude of insignificant decisions, you can peer into a generalised decision making machinery if only you look. That is what is happening today. There is no 'Big' data if I go and buy a soap bar. But, if all volunteers go buy a soap bar each well, wouldn't the soap seller see that and leverage it ? (may be stick a GNU/linux sticker on that :P). It is simply not just that we are all under surveillance, It is not that somebody is taking our data, it is what they do with it and that you have absolutely no say in it.

Data & Machine Learning are making these decisions : They are telling banks to give which loans and reject which. In an extreme case, they even helped the US president to win the election (

If you are an active volunteer, there is a good chance you that have heard about Data Commodification. This can range from your everyday Facebook activity being a direct commodity for Amazon or other Shopping sites to a literal case where our data is sold by the pound at companies like ( { You want some B-tech graduates who are interested in technology to sell them cheap pen drives ? : Sure X$ for Y number of profiles).

We (Swecha) have done quite a bit : From pioneering localised operating systems for bridging digital divide to Fighting against the humongous Facebook for Net Neutrality. We have not limited ourselves to the Open/vs/Closed Source debate. Our Philosophy is much richer and more meaningful. We strive to bring computing to everybody, we strive to educate ourselves, build educators and educate others. We fight the fight we do to protect the freedom of the user in the field of computing. It is high time we start building alternatives to this highly centralised, commodified data.

The threat before us is imminent. The fight, even more so. Remember this when you organise tomorrow : Data Science, Machine Learning, AR/VR are not just new & emerging technologies. For you, as a Swecha volunteer, they are challenges, they are opportunities to let the ideology of free software to shine again.