How Open Source Really Is Changing The World

Not in the ways you may think, but open source is an engine of change and freedom

It's Friday, I am looking forward to the weekend and wanted to stretch my wings today. So I am going to go off the reservation a bit and talk about world events, politics and yes, open source. We truly live in miraculous times.  I know it is easy to say, but really think about it.  In just under 25 years we have seen a new world order take hold. The Cold War dynamics that I and many of you grew up with passed almost the blink of an eye. The events of 9/11 moved us to a new era of terrorist threats that had many of us thinking about isolating ourselves from the world. But the call of freedom and democracy marches on. 

I sit in front of my TV and/or computer screen every day and am truly amazed at what I see going on in the Mideast and other parts of the world. It seems that some of the last bastions of dictatorship and oppressive ruling governments are crumbling before our eyes. I am not naive. I know that there are still other places and countries where change has to come. I also realize that that regime change doesn't guarantee that we will see true democracy take hold. But the scent of political change is in the wind.

Political change today is not being driven by guns and tanks and airplanes. Those are the tools of the old guard trying to keep the status quo.  The forces of change are harnessing technology to  effectuate change. The Internet, the social networks, the mobile net, they are all being wielded by a new generation who are using these tools to gain for themselves the freedoms they see their peers in the rest of the world enjoy.

What my generation tried to do with things like "Radio Free Europe" and "Radio Marti", is being accomplished almost effortlessly with Facebook, Twitter and the like.  The great thing is that it looks like once these technologies are set loose, the Genie is out of the bottle and can't be put back. People the world over are the same. They yearn for peace, prosperity and the pursuit of happiness.  When I was in school as political science major, it was fashionable to say that Eastern Europe and the other parts of the world were not democratic because the people there had no experience with freedom and democracy. They "were not ready" for freedom.  

The Internet has changed that in a really short time. It has made everyone ready for freedom and all that it promises. Yes governments can try to hit the "kill switch", they can harness the power of the net to keep their people in line and invade their privacy. They can even set up a "great firewall". But it will not stop people seeking freedom.

When we dig deeper at what is making all of this technologically induced change possible, we find open source at the core.  Open Source is empowering the net. God knows Bill Gates and Microsoft would not have embraced the Internet if Linux and other open technologies did not have the potential and were not eating their lunch. Google would not be what it is without open source. For that matter neither would Facebook and Twitter.

I am generally an optimist. I think the changes we are seeing in the world will result in freedom, democracy and peace becoming ever more prevalent in the world. Of course it could go the other way. But at the end of the day, we have technology, the Internet and Open Source to thank for this "change we can believe in".

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