The openSUSE conference will feature Georg Greve as first keynote speaker, opening the event on Friday morning. He will talk about “Freedom in the world we live in and the value and importance of communities and Software Freedom”. That’s a mouthful and we’ve asked him to tell us a bit about himself and what he’ll talk about.
We managed to catch him just before he was going to Hamburg for the holidays with the family, actively cleaning up the house and preparing for an early leave the next morning. Georg, born in ’73 on the tiny island of Helgoland outside the coast of northern Germany, spent the first 8 years of his life in this reclusive community before moving to the big city. There he studied biophysics and came across Free Software in 1993. Five years later he was the European speaker for the GNU Project, writing the well known ‘Brave GNU World’ column and in 2001 he initiated the Free Software Foundation Europe. Since 2009 he is the CEO of Kolab Systems AG and lives with his wife and “two utterly gorgeous” twin boys in the neighborhood of Zurich, Switzerland.
We asked him about what he will share with us at the openSUSE Conference.
Georg: “I’m sure everybody is aware of current events around the leak of Prism. Watching it all unfold has been interesting from a variety of angles, both for our communities as well as the larger version of community: society at large. It is awesome that people look at what is going on, care and get upset. But at the same time, it is weird that they get upset now as much of this has been known for quite a while. If you cared for this topic at all you could have learned all of this from public sources in the past. Not with such detail and in such depth or with the drama, but the gist of it was actually not very much hidden. The fact that the USA treats its own interest above everything else and isn’t shy to use its power, knowledge and military for its self interest and most importantly the interest of its corporations isn’t exactly news. It has been like this for quite a while and they have been quite upfront about it.”
Jos: But at least people are angry about it, now…
Georg: “People are shocked. But a few years too late. It is good that they are but we should ask the question: why is it worse to give your data to the government (which may use it in name of the corporations) rather than giving it to the corporations directly?
And people give their data willingly. Even the public sector is affected, just last week the Swedish government banned Google Apps usage in Sweden. They noted that it could not be guaranteed that the data would remain private. News, really? Perhaps there will be some rethinking of our over-eagerness to try new things (which is good) but will that message reach far enough? Will people realize that the problem is not the behaviour of the USA?”
Jos: Shouldn’t we, in the rest of the world, be angry at the USA?
Georg: “The United States are a sovereign nation and they can do what they want to do, nobody can stop them. The real question is about the control over our data. And this control (or lack there-of) results from the software handling it.”
Jos: So to control the data…
Georg: “… we need to control the software, yes. Of course, this is what we are about, as Free Software community: we create the tools to control our data ourselves, or make it possible that we can let someone we trust exercise that control. What we have to learn is that it’s not just about building the best tools in the world and throwing them out. From that follows too little. Good technologies have lost in the past. We need to evolve a professional ecosystem around these technologies to make sure that what we build reaches people, becomes available, accessible, is FUN to use for people. We need to target and reach that part of society which can’t do it themselves, who are not geeks. Geeks can always protect themselves – sure. But if we are satisfied with that we withhold the ability to protect themselves from the 98% who do not have the skills and knowledge to do so.”
Jos: Your message is then that we need to communicate more about our software?
Georg: “We need to go out more, become more professional. More grown-up in a way, at spreading that technology into the world at large. Some companies have successfully been doing that, but it is still not sufficient. We need to do this more pro-actively, and also build more of an understanding in some Free Software Communities about the important role that companies play in bringing the freedom to users. At the end it is about getting better as an ecosystem in providing that freedom to people in all ways that matter, including economically, so they can afford to take control over their own data.”
In the end, it’s about creating the world I would like to live in, and working with others to help us get there.
Learn more at oSC!
At this point the twins decided to derail our conversation, having discovered a new and innovative way of getting themselves soaked in some puddle. Making the world a better place while taking care of kids isn’t easy for sure. But Georg is working on it. He decided to join Kolab because “Groupware is the final pillar of Free Software that needs to become ubiquitous before Free and Open can become a choice for corporations on the corporate desktop”.
We’ll hear how that is going in about 4 weeks: on July 18, registration and opening party starts in Thessalonki! If you have not registered yet, you should do so as soon as possible. Of course, we plan on live streaming as many of the sessions as we can and make them available after the event as well. But nothing beats being there in the flesh so if you can, gear up and get ready to join oSC!
See you there and have a lot of fun!