Australia to celebrate Software Freedom Day 2006

Freedom and Open Source Software (FOSS) enthusiasts around the world will once again take to the streets for the third annual Software Freedom Day (SFD) on September 16th.

Fifteen teams in Australia will join 150 teams from more than 100 countries around the world in celebrating software freedom through installfests, free CD distribution, demonstrations, workshops and talks. Celebrations are planned for Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Townsville, Hobart and some parts of regional South Australia, New South Wales and Tasmania.

"SFD is an international day, born three years ago, to help the average person to understand how software transparency is important in our lives," said Sydney-based Pia Waugh, the newly-appointed president of its organising body, Software Freedom International (SFI).

Waugh explained that with the prevalence of technology in our voting systems, leisure activities and workplaces, basic human freedoms can only be as free as the technology they rely on.

Outreach has been the main focus of SFD in previous years, with organisers aiming "to get to as many people as possible and to help existing developers get in touch with their community," Waugh said. Going into the future, however, SFD hopes to muster political backend support "to give it credibility outside of the geek circles".

Last year's SFD enjoyed the success of being recognised formally in the Scottish Parliament. However, there is still much work left to be done, as SFI has its sights set on global recognition in political and educational spheres through bodies such as the United Nations.

As an incentive for participating teams to promote SFD, SFI has organised a global competition offering high performance IBM servers to teams with the best event publicity, documentary, FOSS deployment project, and event. Autographed T-shirts are being offered as prizes to individuals producing the best SFD logo, event photo, blog coverage, and photo of the highest-ranking Government official at an SFD event.

While last year's Sydney event brought together around 2000 participants and 30 volunteers in a street festival, Waugh estimates only 400 participants and 30 volunteers for SFD 2006.

"This year we're really focusing on the student population," she said.

"I've travelled the world for open source conferences and other events, and have never seen as strong a community as in Australia," she added proudly.

Activities at the Sydney event include hands-on workshops on installing and support, networking opportunities and speeches by Waugh, legal expert Kimberley Weatherall and the Labor Party's Senator Kate Lundy. All members of the general public are invited to attend at the University of New South Wales at no charge.

SFI, to which Waugh was voted president on July 30th, comprises nine board members including SFD founders Henrik Nilsen Omma, Matt Oquist and Phil Harper.

"The great thing is that [the founders have] managed to base a celebration on software freedom," Waugh said. "Regardless of the various different sects, technology and interests, everyone can get involved in this outreach program."

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