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Transparent code, secure data: Selling free software to the US government, our bosses, and ourselves

Karen Johnson, Fen Labalme


How many times have you heard someone say that free software seems insecure, that it’s buggy, that it’s a pain to install or use, or that it just looks unprofessional? We love using and championing free software, but how do we sell it in our work? How do we convince clients that free software is professional, secure, reliable, and useful? And how do we help them learn about the ethical and moral value of free software, and empower them to share that message? In this session, we’ll talk through our methods of promoting free software in government digital services projects. We’ll share some wins, some not so successful attempts, and some future initiatives, and talk about how you can make changes at your own organizations. And we’ll share our git repo with some playbooks and strategies for those who want to bring this work back to their own companies!


3 years, 7 months ago

Tagged with

government · Fen Labalme · Karen Johnson · CivicActions · free software · Free the Future · LibrePlanet conference · LibrePlanet 2020 video · LibrePlanet 2020 · LibrePlanet · lp2020 · video · FSF


CC BY-SA 4.0


This talk was presented at LibrePlanet.


LibrePlanet is the Free Software Foundation's annual conference. The FSF campaigns for free/libre software, meaning it respects users' freedom and community. We believe that users are entitled to this; all software should be free.


We do not advocate "open source".

That term was coined to reject our views. It refers to similar practices, but usually presented solely as advantageous, without talking of right and wrong.


Richard Stallman launched the free software movement in 1983 by announcing development of the free operating system, GNU. By 1992, GNU was nearly operational; one major essential component was lacking, the kernel.


In 1992, Torvalds freed the kernel Linux, which filled the last gap in GNU. Since then, the combined GNU/Linux system has run in millions of computers. Nowadays you can buy a new computer with a totally free GNU/Linux system preinstalled.


The views of the speaker may not represent the Free Software Foundation. The Foundation supports the free software cause and freedom to share, and basic freedoms in the digital domain, but has no position on other political issues.