Brussels / 1 & 2 February 2020


Interview with Amanda Brock
CANCELLED United Nations Technology and Innovation Labs. Open Source isn't just eating the world, it's changing it

Photo of Amanda Brock

Amanda Brock will give a talk about CANCELLED United Nations Technology and Innovation Labs. Open Source isn't just eating the world, it's changing it at FOSDEM 2020.

Q: Could you briefly introduce yourself?

I joined Canonical back in early 2008 as the first lawyer and took on the role as General Counsel. I am just beginning my 13th year of Open Source and of course, constantly learning! Having spent 25 years working as a lawyer, primarily in tech, I flipped out of legal work, after a stint of Fintech legal work in emerging markets like Ukraine, Algeria and Pakistan.

Since early 2019, I have focused on Open Source more generally, working in an advisory capacity on open source strategy, policy and practices, and as part time CEO firstly of the Trustable Software Project and now of OpenUK. Obviously my legal skills still come into play but I am no longer working as a lawyer.

I am a founding Editor of the Journal of Law Technology and Society (“JOLTS”) and Editor of the book, Free and Open Source Software: Law, Practise and Policy (2nd edition), to be published summer 2020, by Oxford University Press. It will be in an open access format thanks to the sponsorship of the Vietsch Foundation. I’m a member of the OASIS Open Projects Advisory Board, A European Representative at the Open Invention Network and since 2019, the Chair of the United Nations Technology Innovation Labs’ Open Source and IP Advisory Board.

Q: What will your talk be about, exactly? Why this topic?

Change is hard to keep up with as there has been so much in software and in particular in Open Source over the last decade. We live in a software driven world and Open Source is driving the infrastructure of that world. I will talk a little about that and how it’s not just changing the world through the internet and digitisation but how “Open” can also be put to work in a positive way to help to change the world for good, through the outputs of organisations like the UN’s Technology Innovation Labs and the Gates Foundation and their use of Open Source software, open standards and open data. I may also talk a little about my experience in FinTech in emerging markets.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish by giving this talk? What do you expect?

I find I receive a lot of “cold” messaging across all sorts of medium from folk and a lot of them would like to do more in the “Open Source for Good” movement and in particular they would like to support the UN’s labs. I hope to share some info about the labs’ work, the Advisory Board and how people can get involved in various Open for Good projects.

I’ll aim to share some info on Open for Good communities, what they are doing and how it may be possible to contribute to the work of the UNTIL Labs as a member of a community or perhaps by finding a corporate sponsor to support a Fellowship in the labs.

Q: How is Open Source impacting the UN’s Technology Innovation Labs and the Social Development Goals?

I was interviewed by the UN last year and you can read more about the labs’ work and the SDG’s.

Q: 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of (F)OSDEM. What contributions has FOSDEM made to the advancement of FOSS, or how did you in particular benefit from FOSDEM?

FOSDEM is one of the first things I recommend to anyone new to Open Source or to organisations who want to be involved in Open communities. It’s essential. We are having our next UNTIL Advisory Board meeting right before this edition, as almost all of us will be in Brussels for FOSDEM. It’s the one event that everyone I know rocks up to.

I learn so much every year, from speaking to people and hearing what’s going on just as much as going to sessions.

This is my first time speaking in the Main Track (and I am suitably nervous) but I have spoken in the Legal Dev room several times. In fact, this year I am also leading a debate there on Saturday: “The 4 Freedoms and OSD are out of date and not fit for purpose in 2020”.

I think it’s timely for us to discuss this and to open up the conversation around what Open Source is and isn’t, publicly in 2020. Also, it’s cool to use this new debate format. I was surprised, mind you, by how many people said no to debating! Wonder what we have let ourselves in for….

OpenUK are hosting a stand for the first time in Building K, on the 2 Floor all day Saturday. Come and have some tea and biscuits with the Brits.

For now, at least, it looks like it will be our first day post Brexit. The OpenUK folk are keen to meet everyone, but particularly people who are based in the UK or from there. We are working to pull our community in the UK together as a strong voice post Brexit.

Q: Ok, so I don’t have to ask whether you have you enjoyed previous FOSDEM editions?

As you probably guessed, I love FOSDEM.

It’s the event where I am guaranteed to see old friends and meet new people, which for me, is what conferences in Open Source are all about — the people and communities.

Every year I hear something in one of the talks that has a big impact on me.

Last year, I was really taken with John “maddog” Hall’s closing keynote, which was all about 50 years of Open Source and celebrating things that were 50 in 2019 including his work as a UNIX coder and Linus. Like Linus, I was 50 in 2019 and I blatantly (with maddog’s knowledge) stole the theme and used it for my keynotes. It had a great impact at one mainstream tech conference in particular. I may even use a little of that in my FOSDEM talk.

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Creative Commons License

This interview is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Belgium License.