"Ask Your Candidates" is an ongoing campaign where you can always help. The principle is to ask your local, regional, national candidates or parties where they stand regarding Free Software and Open Standards, what they will do to help broaden it or how they will prevent software patents.
More information on this campaign can be read on the FSFE's campaign page.
The dates for next elections are summarised on AskYourCandidates/Dates.
Ideas for the campaign
We may want to contact and register to the group of charities from the Free Software Pact.
Here is a list of typical questions you can ask your candidates on the most important topics FSFE fights for.
- What is your position on Free Software?
- Do you intend to broaden the use of Free Software in public administrations, and how?
1All parties agree on the importance of Free Software. How advanced in this matter is the IT in the organisation of [party name]? More concretely: (if precise figures lack, please estimate a rough ratio)
- what percentage of your PCs browse the Internet with Mozilla Firefox (or another free browser)?
what percentage use OpenOffice.org for text writing purposes (or other Free Software)?
- and what percentage of the staff read their emails with Free Software clients?
2What is your feeling about many administrations using proprietary software from which they don't know a single line of source code, and therefore can't check reliably how it works?
Do you plan to better protect [country] companies against industrial spying?
3We use always more software to help us in our daily tasks. Our desktop computer, our laptop, our music player, our cellphone… Software runs everywhere. Wenn something goes wrong with this software, there is mainly only one manufacturer I could contact. And often it is forbidden to try to repair the error ourselves. Nor is it allowed, besides, to ask help from another software company, because they can't legally sell service for someone else's software. In this manner, a monopoly over service providing is achieved. Very much of what was allowed with material goods, as simple as repairing one's car, is not allowed anymore in software.
I would like to know your opinion as [person's function] on this topic.
- do you see a need for action? What measure would you like to take?
- Free Software allows all users as well as companies to study the internals and to improve the software.
- do you think that Free Software is a solution to this issue, and will you particularly advocate it?
2These days, many administrations use software that can only be improved by its manufacturer. This way, it is not possible for another company to offer proper service. The administration therefoe only have the choice once - which software it buys, and is then locked in a service-providing monopoly. And migration costs to another solution must then be calculated with artificially high costs, notably because of proprietary formats. Free Software allows other companies to improve the software, and thereby to compete with the original manufacturer.
- will you take measures to prevent service-providing monopolies in the future? and if yes, what kind of measures can you think of?
- what way can you think of to use Free Software in order to break this service-providing monopolies?
4Will you stand up for a rule to use Free Software and Open Standards in your administration?
- how do you intend to put this rule in practice?
- Free Software offers extremely reduced access and use costs for little and medium-sized businesses. Will you speak up for Free Software companies? (give example of one or two of these companies if possible)
Control over one's data
4With proprietary software, knowledge about the composition and working principles of software are always in the hands of the few.
- how do you intend to guarantee that citizens can control their software [so that it works for them and not against them]?
- how do you wish to help the State and the citizens to (re)gain control over their software, which affects their work and communications?
- What do you think of patentability of Software?
- Are you aware that software patents are mostly incompatible with Free Software licenses, and therefore restraint competition?
- what do you intend to do to prevent exclusion of Free Software from competition through software patents?
- Free Software has many advantages in the field of education: it spreads the notions of freedom, sharing, and respect, offers indiscriminate access to learning materials and resources, allows better use of "old" computers; do you intend to promote the use of Free Software in schools, and how?
5[Party name] speaks up for equality of opportunities in a fair educational system.
- do you see a risk that education gets the pupils used to proprietary solutions, make them dependent of monopolies?
- do you see proprietary software as contradictory to your wish of competition and freedom?
Decentralised services and Data protection
Open Standards (?)
1Open Standards and interoperability are essential for equal access and fair competition in the information age.
what percentage of the [party name] co-workers can open ODF files without problem?
- what percentage of the documents are sent in open formats (e.g. ODF)? in closed formats (e.g. doc)?
- which measures do you intend to take in order to increase this percentages?
Find out an official website for your city/region/country, which offers a document/medium you can't read (flash video, RTF file, OOXML file, "Acrobat-only" pdf file).
1In order for E-Government to be legitimate, all citizens must have equal access to official resources. As many other citizens, I can't read the [data format] file at [url] because this format is not an open standard, and thus can't be open with Free Software. Within how long are you willing to remove this pressure to use closed-source software, which measures are planned?
5Free Software allows all users as well as companies to study the internals and to improve the software.
- Do you use it yourself in your private or political life yet?
- Open standards foster competition and innovation. They are the basis for software interoperability, which avoids vendor lock-in. At the same time, they enable fair access to the market for all participants (before all for small and medium-sized businesses) and prevent monopolies.
will [party name] bindingly ensure use of Open Standards for the public sector?
How To ask these questions
This really depends on the means you dispose of. For instance, in Germany, there is a dedicated website for questions to the deputies. You can take a look at the questions and answers (in German) from the 2009 elections.
Further examples and real-cases
State elections in Germany (Bundestagswahl) 2009 (in German)
Elections in Austria 2010 (in German)