In late 2001, pushed by the excitement gathered around the Social Forum movement in Italy, a group of people from different backgrounds gathered to form Bologna Free Software Forum, a group whose goal is promoting a critical approach to software and, by consequence, promoting Free Software.
What we did
In early 2002, we participated to the collaborative writing of the Cortiana Free Software Law proposal for the Italian Parliament.
In February, 2002, we wrote the software and hardware part of the Critical Consumer Guide "Pagine Arcobaleno", distributed at the beginning of April, 2002, by writing a list of local computer shops who could install and support Linux, and sell used hardware.
In April, 2002, we organized a round of seminars to teach local grassroots groups about how to correctly approach computers and software and how they can be used for their activity.
In June, 2002 we upgraded the IT infrastructure of the local Radio Città 103 using free software with outstanding results.
In October, 2002, we started the Comodino project (www.comodino.org), aiming at providing internet services for political groups and non profits with a critical approach to technology, joining forces for funding the services (bandwidth and hardware) and promoting cooperation among the various participants. The La Comune content management system, designed with the intent of networking different content providers together, has been realized with these specific goals in mind. La Comune has been deployed in April 2003 as the engine behind the www.acabnews.it grassroots press agency, and since February, 2004 it also powers the www.zic.it local magazine website. The Comodino project has already proved to be a great contact point for different otherwise disconnected realities, especially in the italian society where most grassroots movements and political organizations have a dangerous tendency to fragmentate and compete uncooperatively.
In February, 2003, together with the J.M.Keynes High School and the Castel Maggiore municipality, we organized and held a seminar on Free Software for school teacers and local administrators.
From March, 2003, together with Radio Città 103, we realized a bi-weekly radio transmission on Free Software and critical approach to ICT called "La Coperta di Linus". The transmission has turned from a curious experience to an interesting format, which proved its potential when at the start of the second Bush war on Iraq it was the only tramsission known to us who could talk about the new technologies in times of war, including coverage for online activism, anti-war websites, alternative information sources and means for online mobilitation.
In April, 2003, we joined a group of consultants for the administration of the city of Bologna, helping advocate a proposal for a feasibility study on the transition of the local administration ICT infrastructure to Free Software.
In February and March, 2004, together with Attac Italia and GVC and funded by Regione Emilia Romagna, we organized and held lessons for high school classes on globalization themes. We talked about cooperation, freedom, Information Society and Free Software.
Since 2002 we organised and participated to conferences and seminars with the aim of encouraging a more inclusive innovation process trough the adoption of sociotechnical solutions tailored on the real needs of groups, NGOs, govenments. We also joined different campaigns and we actively paricipated to the WSIS preparation phase.
What we want to do
The La Comune content management system needs evolving. However there is already a big amount of CMS software in the wild, and although La Comune shows both originality and potential we prefer to work in networking other CMS people and software together. We are working to promote the agreement on open standards for interchanging both multimedia data and metadata, to allow creating common metadata-editing and uploading applications, to allow sharing contents among different CMSs and to eventually allow integrating different CMSs pieces together.
We are committed to continue and evolve the Comodino project, creating and improving services and possibly networking with other similar projects. An interesting outcome of this networking would be creating a common distribution ("Debian Non-Profit Server"?) with the infrastructure we use, so that we can share administration tasks, technology and experiences with other groups all around the world.
After the success of the high school course, we see the possibility of creating an organized teching group together with other organizations, which could turn out to become a new reality in Civil Society which could bring the vast cultural contents which are produced to a wider public.
We are still participating in the "Pagine Arcobaleno" critical consumer guide, which recently received fundings and has good potential to evolve.
We are committed to continue and evolve the radio transmission "La Coperta di Linus", which has recently suspended because the people working on it were too busy with other projects.
We keep being active in participating to conferences and providing guidance and consultancy for journalists and politicians wanting to get involved in free software, including participating in lobbying activities like the EU Software Patent campaign led by FFII and other events like WSIS 2005.
Giving the success we had with Radio Città 103, other works going on and requests we are receiving, we would like to continue providing IT infrastructure to local non-profits and grassroots political groups, spending both our experience and the possibility of providing an online extension of the IT infrastructure vie the Comodino project.