Tuesday, 10 September 2013

ARTivists by FOSS

 My employer, the Department of Arts and Culture (South Africa) recently launched a new and interesting publication called the Artivist which has a nice ring to it.  This got me thing as to what will we call someone who is a technological activist.

Reference was made to the Wikipedia definition of the term Artivist which according to M K Asante Jr writes:-
"The artivist (artist +activist) uses her artistic talents to fight and struggle against injustice and oppression—by any medium necessary. The artivist merges commitment to freedom and justice with the pen, the lens, the brush, the voice, the body, and the imagination. The artivist knows that to make an observation is to have an obligation."
This prompted me to also look at the definition of an Activist/Activism on Wikipedia:-

"Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, economic, or environmental change, or stasis as captured in the Wikipedia."

For me, glaring in both definitions is the fact that technological change and/or activism is not captured.

However, I love the words 'by any medium necessary' in the definition of the artivist as this could also include activism through the use of technology as seen by the use of  social networks during the Arab Spring.

This brings me to the activist role we have assumed through the implimentation of Free and Open Source Software.  The South African government approved a Policy on Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)  in 2007.  The FOSS policy states:-
  1. The South African Government will implement FOSS unless proprietary software is
    demonstrated to be significantly superior.
  2. The South African Government will migrate current proprietary software to FOSS
    whenever comparable software exists.
  3. All new software developed for or by the South African Government will be based on
    open standards, adherent to FOSS principles, and licensed using a FOSS license
    where possible.
  4. The South African Government will ensure all Government content and content
    developed using Government resources is made Open Content, unless analysis on
    specific content shows that proprietary licensing or confidentiality is substantially
  5. The South African Government will encourage the use of Open Content and Open
    Standards within South Africa.

Our department is one of those that assumed an activist role through the use of technology.  We are vigilantly pushing for the adoption of the Free Open Source Software and moving away from prorietary solutions.  In this regard we are among others, currently busy with the following FOSS projects:

Alfresco ECM:  we are on the verge on going live with our enterprise content management system.

Drupal:  We have just launched our new website (www.dac.gov.za) developed on Drupal.  Our Intranet has also been finalised on Drupal and will be launched soon.

National Automated Archival Information Retrieval System (NAAIRS) is a system used to search for archival material held by the National Archives of South Africa.  We are currently busy customing the ICA Atom in order to migrate the data currently on the NAAIRS into a new system.   

Interesting to note is that following successful implementation of our ECM system, it will be rolled out throughout South African government departments who have similar requirements as ours. The State Information Technology Agency  (SITA) will be leading this initiative and will be calling the system IzizweDoc ECM System.  The Customised ICA Atom (NAAIRS) will also be rolled out throughout Provincial Archives in South Africa.

As can be deduced from the above, the two systems will be implemented beyond our department.

We  previously implimented the following open source software systems:-
Terminology Management System
KOLAB email server
Suse on desktops and OpenOffice
GLPI as our Helpdesk system
Could it be that the Department of Arts and Culture is also a Technological Activist and by so doing we bring to being an extension of the definition of the ARTivist to include the struggle to bring about technological change for service delivery in government?

The journey of discovery continues!