Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Hard-earned money could better go to winning campaigns, says NGO.

Non-government organisations (NGO) talk about freedom. Now, they are experiencing it in at least in one sphere of their activism--software. That's the message emerging from the global network Greenpeace, which recently shifted to free software in Southeas Asia.

"The office has been planning to move to free software since early 2002. We made a conscious choice between migrating to free software or spending funds on expensive software licenses", said Steven Sy, web-editor and system administrator for Greenpeace Southeast Asia in the Philippines.

He added, "We also did not want to get into legal troubles if ever the BSA [Business Software Alliance, the proprietary software arm that fights illegal copying of software, which it terms piracy] came our way."

Sy has been with the Philippine environmental movement for almost a decade and joined Greenpeace about two years ago. "The concept of free software/open source is new to me, and I'm still learning the ropes", he said.

For its part, Greenpeace Southeast Asia (GPSEA) was formally established in March 2000. The head office is in Bangkok, Thailand, and a branch office is located in Manila, the Philippines.

Globally, Greenpeace runs an estimated 90+% of their servers on GNU/Linux. But so far, Manila is the only Greenpeace office to fully deploy GNU/Linux on the majority of desktops. Other smaller GP offices are planning to migrate in the coming months.

In Manila, free software has been fully deployed within the office. They have been using Red Hat since September 2002. "At first we were using Red Hat 7.3 with a Ximian desktop, then we upgraded to Red Hat 8 as soon as it came out", said Sy.

The Manila office has seven desktop systems and one laptop running on GNU/Linux. Two other laptops continue to use Windows XP. Sy says the GNU/Linux boxes mainly are used for word processing, e-mail, web browsing, spreadsheets and presentations.

When asked what is the best part of the migration, Sy replied, "It's free--both in the sense of beer and speech--and it's secure. There have been [fewer] or no virus infections since migrating", says Sy.

The reasons for the move were both philosophical and pragmatic, "Free software is a technically superior and morally correct technology", Sy said. The cost of the migration was miniscule as well. They downloaded the software from the Internet, so it was "just the cost of blank CDs, less than $1 US".

For the users, of course, there was the question of time and patience to learn the new system. But, as some have argued, the cost of proprietary operating systems cannot be compared with the salary costs of workers, more so in a continent like Asia.

The benefits of moving to free software already are coming in, and they're not small. Greenpeace Southeast Asia says free software has saved the office "a lot of money" that naturally "is better spent on winning campaigns than paying for very expensive licenses".

So far, the only problems have been minor bugs in the software and GNU/Linux's traditional steep learning curve for the beginner. "I wouldn't know (how other NGOs, non-profits or community-based organisations view the issue of free software), but I'm hoping our case could serve as an example to the other NGOs and non-profits in the Philippines", said Sy.

Fred Noronha is a freelance journalist living in Goa, India.



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Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Vodak's picture

So from this artical I gathered that they do not support OpenSource Software but simply download it off the internet and burn it for a buck.

I would assume that the since Linux is "technically superior and morally correct technology" that GreenPeace would at least go out and buy a legit copy of the Operating System to support the RedHAT Company.

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

I would say your understanding of Free Software and Open Source, and the difference between these two movements, is flawed....

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

What do you mean by "legit" copy? RedHat offers it's distribution of Linux for free, downloadable from it's web site. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the freely downloadable version of RedHat is every bit as "legit" as a purchased one.

Furthermore, there are many different ways to support open source. I highly doubt if the people at Greenpeace have free time for hacking the kernel. These people are supporting open source in the best way I can think of- by using it.

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

Greenpeace is practically a terrorist organization, and I frankly don't see their use of Linux as anything to brag about. Screw 'em.

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

Amazing how easily the term "terrorist" rolls off the tongue, ain't it? Rather like red-baiting in the Fifties. Call someone you don't like a terrorist and they're hardly a person, are they? Hardly deserving constitutional protection...

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

I guess this comment shows the diversity of people into free software

. I would have thought most people would have seen greenpeace

(and other simililarly minded organisations) and free software

as being a good match. Quite clearly having a clue is not

a prerequisite for using linux, or at the very least for

posting anonymously on linux journal.

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

Okay, let's agree that George Bush is a saint then!

How many others are into this?

Anonymous's picture

Any idea how many other non-profits / non-government organisation or charities are into Free/Libre and Open Source Software? Is the number significant? If not, why? I had come across who was working on NGU, a project of GNU to promote Free Software among the the alternative world... My friend in Brazil was also saying that at the III World Social Forum just held in Porto Alegre, Brazil the IT infrastructure of the event was deployed by Procempa (the information services company owned by the Municpality of Porto Alegre), based on free software. All the servers, and 80% of the ~750 desktops were based on free software. Interesting! But a lot more remains to be done...

Re: Greenpeace Southeast Asia Moves to Free Software

Anonymous's picture

It just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that money I give to Greenpeace isn't subsidizing the Microsoft monopoly.

Save the whales! =)