The economy of knowledge in the 21st century
Our economic and social development has always been based on the freedom to use, study, share and improve common knowledge and information. Since entering the digital era, the freedoms to access and use knowledge is strongly linked with the access to technology and software. Furthermore, access and use of our cultural heritage, economic development, as well as our social and political organisation, is increasingly based on technology and software. In the 21st century, access to software determines how we can participate in our society.
This is the introduction text of a campaign I wanted to run for the upcoming General Elections in Spain, accompanied with some theory, how Free Software increases autonomy and helps to grow local economy. Following this background, in the very heart of the campaign there are some clear demands, a “Freedom Pact”, that should help to put theory into practice. Candidates that run for office can sign this Freedom Pact to show that they care and to promise to
- promote the use of Free Software in all areas of public life, public administration, and public education
- promote legislation to make Free Software the first choice in public procurement
- promote policies in favour of Free Software and oppose policies that discriminate against it
- ensure a legal requirement, that all software developed with public funds is released as Free Software, so other administrations, and the public, can benefit from it
- promote the widest possible use of Open Standards in the public sector, as well as the publication and archiving of all public data and documents in formats based on Open Standards
Unfortunately, the campaign never came alive and given that the elections will already happen in 4 weeks, the campaign will not get alive for the 2015 elections. However, I think the work that has been done is worth sharing and that is why I aset put a simple wp-page that includes the pact, the campaign texts and the translations we have done:
This way, I hope it inspires someone else in the wild to take it up and run a campaign, to share it, to talk about it or to simply do whatever you like. Everything public domain (CC0). The text is available in Spanish, Gallic, Catalan and English.
Finally, I especially like to thank Juan Antonio Zaratiegui Vallecillo for working on the multilanguage page that never went online, to Eukelade for the translations and for Asa Ritz for his contributions.
And here are the reasons why in the end the campaign didn’t came alive and what lessons I learned from that:
- The political system is different in Spain. Unlike in Germany or the European Parliament elections (where I got some experience before), Spanish voters are asked to vote for a political party and not for a specific candidate. Then, depending on the votes that a party gets, number 1 to x of this party list will get a seat in the Parliament. Hence, a political campaign in Spain – unlike the campaign I had in mind – better concentrates on the whole party instead of single candidates to sign a pact. While I wonder how you could get a party to sign a pact, I am pretty sure you need at least some modifications to the pact that I was thinking of. Lesson learned: First check all details and political backgrounds of a country before you think of the details of the campaign you like to run.
- Exponential functions and the time problem: Starting in May with thinking about a political campaign for a national election was maybe fair enough. Seven months should do. However, I underestimated the time you need to invest full time over some weeks directly in the beginning: You need to get volunteers, you need to get connections, you need to get press contacts, you need to spread the message over weeks, give people time to become aware of your campaign, travel around and speak on conferences or use other occasions to talk to potential volunteers, signees or social multipliers … once this is done, once you have your campaign in the hands of a running network, it can be self-running and while you concentrate on coordination there are others to represent your head. However, this applies later and in the beginning you need a lot of efforts to get things started from scratch. Lesson learned: When you like a campaign to take off in 3 months – start to work full-time on it now
- The physical presence: Sending some messages in different corners of the internet about the idea of this campaign and the need of help, I got a lot of positive feedback. Some people were really enthusiastic and offered to help by all means. But the digital word is different. Everything said between two keyboards is not as binding as what is said from face to face. If you like to motivate people, if you like to get them on board, to keep them going, to get their contributions, then a real life meeting is priceless. Volunteer networks are social networks as well. If you just communicate digitally and you never meet in real life it is very likely you lose contributors. Lesson learned: When you run a national campaign, don’t try to do it remotely – be in that country and meet your contributors in real life.