IFIT 2003 -- Report

Panel Discussion

This Informationday Free Information Technology (IFIT) is the first such conference that was organised by the department of science and responsibility (WuV) of the University of Innsbruck. Many people have helped create this conference by working on small bits, just as if it was Free Software. Even though IFIT was meant as a one day conference a panel discussion took place on Friday evening already.

A panel discussion normally is interesting to watch since normally there are experts who discuss issues. However, this time, there were three politicians (a fourth canceled his attendance). The discussion started with an introduction into Open Source and was more like a quiz "find the first hundred bugs". This was really hard to stand. She mixed up everything she could.

It was a good idea, though, to include the audience into the discussion and give them a chance to ask questions to the panel members. Only the ambassador of one party (The Greens) seemed to understand the issues and gave clear statements pro Open Source and contra software patents. The others mixed that up and even admired patents.

A small buffet provided space for additional discussions between speakers, visitors and officials. After the university was closed discussions were continued in a hotel nearby almost until dawn. Even though, this is quite common for conferences covering Free Software, it seemed to be totally uncommon to the conference officials.

Informationday Free Information Technology

The conference consists of talks and workshops as well as a small information lounge in which the Debian project, the Verein zur Förderung Freier Software (FFS) of Austria and the Linux User Group Tirol were able to maintain a booth, next to several commercial booths. During the talks all booths were almost empty and only staff were around.

In workshops speakers informed the audience about the use of Free Software in education as well as in governmental agencies and businesses. It was emphasised several times that some goals and products couldn't be reached with proprietary and license-aware software. Free Software opened up new possibilities and chances.

The Debian talk revealed how development is done in the Debian project. The speaker explained the benefits of the open development model, the used mechanisms and the framework that helps the project not end up in total chaos. He outlined the way developers work together collaboratively and how important changes are discussed and implemented.

At the end of the day the final talk covered the future of free information technology and focused on threats that could harm Free Software and technology. This includes non-free standards and hardware but the main threat lays in the legal acceptance of software patents and granting trivial patents like progress bars or storing of audio data.

After the talk a small buffet was prepared, so discussions continued until the university was closed again. A Greek café hosted the discussion afterwards, but not as long as yesterday.

Most talks and workshops were recorded digitally. Video streams are provided by the IFIT organisation crew. A best-of DVD is also in production, details about this will be announced on the mailinglist.

Martin Schulze