Mitch Kapor sees open source as bridge to digital inclusion

Software industry pioneer Mitch Kapor — the father of Lotus 1-2-3 and chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation — believes open source will play a key role in digital inclusion initiatives.

During a keynote today at Ubuntu Live — an open source conference in Portland, Oregon — Kapor noted that the open source movement has achieved more than most anyone could have expected.

“When software is free and open, it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or your education or many of the distinctions that are likely barriers to opportunity,” said Kapor. “Access to a computer and access to broadband are the remaining barriers.” Software industry pioneer Mitch Kapor — the father of Lotus 1-2-3 and chair of the Open Source Applications Foundation — believes open source will play a key role in digital inclusion initiatives.

During a keynote today at Ubuntu Live — an open source conference in Portland, Oregon — Kapor noted that the open source movement has achieved more than most anyone could have expected.

“When software is free and open, it doesn’t matter who you are, how much money you have, or your education or many of the distinctions that are likely barriers to opportunity,” said Kapor. “Access to a computer and access to broadband are the remaining barriers.”

If infrastructure providers and community leaders can begin to close the digital divide, open source software could be a huge enabler for those new Internet users. With open source, Kapor noted, “you can learn, participate, better yourself, be economically successful, and come together with other people in away that would have been unimaginable a generation ago. At its best, open source is a model of getting things done.”

Still, Kapor knows there’s more work to be done for open source to displace traditional closed-source software. “If the open source movement was the Harry Potter series, we’d be on book 3 or book 4,” said Kapor. “We’re not sure of the ending yet. With respect for the future in open source, there’s no absolute predictability — but we can influence the future a great deal.”

During one point in his keynote, Kapor paused to thank Ubuntu developers attending the conference, noting that his own office uses Ubuntu Linux for its day-to-day operations.

“It’s been a heck of a series so far, even though we’re only on book 3 or 4 [with open source],” he concluded. “And I look forward to writing the next chapters for you.”