The Worldwide Open Source Movement
With the advancement of technology and the increasing access to the internet, the digital community has developed one of the largest commons in the world. The ideology behind this movement was that technology, with its potential to create social change and identify solutions to problems, should be free, and access to it kept open rather than restricted. The Open Source movement has grown based on principles of sharing, collaboration, and accessibility, all while the contributors often receive no or little compensation for their work.
The Open Source communities have mobilised to provide free digital tools, such as software or hardware, in the midst of the privatisation and enclosure of technology. One of the main examples of this has been the development of open source solutions to software. Whilst Microsoft Office, for example, monetises its product, and turns billions of dollars in profits, Libre Office is an alternative open source solution which is available to anyone free of charge. Another example in the software solutions market, is Adobe’s Photoshop CC, a very costly design programme, as opposed to GIMP, which is a free open source photo editing software with similar capabilities and tools.
The open source concept means that if a piece of software or hardware is developed, it is also open to modify and constantly improve. There are perhaps millions of contributors to open source projects and the result? One or a team of individuals identify a new idea, develop it and publish it so that anyone can access it. In turn, everyone will have access to it to use it for their own needs, or to contribute and improve it, all of this usually without any compensation, but the desire to keep technology accessible to everyone and to progress. From identifying solutions to daily needs for using digital tools, through to innovation in the agricultural or renewable energy sectors, open source projects have helped empower people and communities to become more knowledgeable, whilst benefiting millions of individuals who could otherwise not afford to improve themselves, businesses or environment due to a lack of substantial financing or wealth.
Open Source Promotion in Albania
The Open Source community is present almost everywhere around the world, and is perhaps one of the most active and widely engaged with examples of commons in the Balkans. While the management of natural or cultural resources is still underdeveloped, thousands of digitally minded people will have used and contributed to the development of open source solutions.
Apart from forming a wide digital network, a group of open source enthusiasts and professionals have established the Open Labs in Tirana, an organisation where members contribute to developing creative open source solutions, as well as contributing to larger, worldwide open source projects. The Open Labs became a registered NGO in 2012.
Since 2014, they have organised OSCAL (Open Source Conference Albania), with this year’s event planned to take place between the 13th-14th of May. The conference will bring together open source enthusiasts, software developers, government representatives, and academics and its main goal is to promote open source solutions and the idea that knowledge is ‘communal’ and should be made available to everyone, free of charge.