Last week, I was invited to talk for the “Concurso Universitario de Software Libre (CUSL)” in Zaragoza, Spain. The objective of this “concurso” is to promote the use and development of Free Software by organising an annual contest among various universities inside Spain. My objective was to get to know the contest and to use this occasion to promote the idea of a Free Software campaign for this years national elections in Spain.

When it comes to Free Software, Spain is different than many countries in Europe. For example Andalucia, an autonomous region of Spain: Twelve years ago, the government decided with its Decree 72/2003, that Free Software is to become the first choice in education, comes pre-installed on all hardware and will be promoted and used by the government and administration itself. In the same year they released their own distribution Guadalinex that is now installed on thousands computers, especially in all kinds of educational institutions. Andalucia is not alone in this. Many other autonomous regions inside Spain started to develop their own distributions around the same time, for example Extremadura (Linex), and Valencia (Lliurex). Today, 100.000s of computers use these distributions.

Nevertheless, since the start of the crisis, many projects have been cut. Controversially, many regions now prefer to cut down successful Free Software projects and start paying licenses for proprietary software again. Or prefer not to pay at all. In 2012, for example, the Government of Andalucia had to pay around 12 million of license fine to Microsoft for using their software. This is absolutely unnecessary. Given that the government is developing its own distribution since 12 years, they should invest now even more to get rid of all non-free software, of vendor lock-ins and license fees.

Actually, Free Software is one way out of the crisis. It is a way to gain economic autonomy and grow and distribute wealth among the people in Spain – instead of paying international companies outside Spain.
How and why this works, this was the content of my talk. And I was happy that the very next day, this idea was backed by Eduardo Romero, Sysadmin in the City Council of Zaragoza. As he showed to the students how the city of Zaragoza directly created six local job positions by using Free Software.

I reminded the participants of this concurso on the political and societal influence on Free Software. How political decisions help to use Free Software and how by the use of Free Software the local economy grows. The idea is, if they – as Free Software developers – engage successfully with the FSFE in the political awareness of Free Software during the national elections 2015, they help to create their own jobs with this. Later, some of the participants showed interest in evolving the idea of a Free Software campaign in Spain this year. I will do my best to keep them on board and I will keep you updated here on my blog.

Sidenotes: Originally, I wanted to give my talk in English (slides), as I have never done a talk in Spanish before. However, they convinced me to give my talk in Spanish and although I was not prepared for that at all, it was going quite well and the talk was very well received. I got very good feedback on specific thoughts I was evolving during the talk, how Free Software helps Spain out of the crisis and helps them to grow local economy. That is why I am happy to elaborate this context further in the upcoming weeks, here on my blog. Expect me to write about specific characteristics of Spain, their use of Free Software, about different political parties and regulations.