English version 1.1 2005-04-02 - Graham Seaman. Original version in spanish. Versão no português. Versione italiana.

For Freedom Of Knowledge, Against Inequality And Poverty,
Open Letter from Hipatia1 to the Governments, Social Movements, and Citizens of the world

We are aware of the need and urgency for the governments of the world to take an effective stand in the struggle against inequality and poverty.

We are also aware of the international concern caused by the deepening of the divides created by the new information and communication technologies(ICTs).

We wish to warn definitively that the solution is not to train the poor in information technology, but to eradicate poverty, using all available resources, and allowing each group of people to freely decide how to invest these resources and the proportion to invest in technology.

We are therefore worried to see that the dangerous fantasy of connecting everyone 'down to the last village' is being accepted without argument by the cabinets of the governments of the world, driven by the corporations and international bodies in the shadow of the World Summit on the Information Society.

There are many interests involved, and the various governments are managing and investing huge budgets without evaluating alternatives or aiming at results which better serve educational methodologies or a more just social praxis.

There are many issues to discuss. In particular, we are concerned that the just demands of the populations of the various countries are being used to consolidate the current monopoly of proprietary software on a scale which places all of mankind in a situation of absolute dependency.

We believe in freedom of knowledge.

We believe that software must be free because this is the only valid means to realise the collective effort towards a life of better quality and greater dignity which is without hidden problems.

Only software developed in collaboration by people all over the world in order for all to understand, share, use, and distribute in freedom has earned the right to be chosen to achieve full democratization.

Only software which allows the basic human rights related to knowledge to be achieved without constraint can guarantee the creation of social justice.

Only software which all can understand, share, and make freely available is suitable for this cause.

We are witnessing the birth of a new society

We know that the route is not simple and that there are still many technical, political, social, educational, economic and cultural questions to resolve, but every challenge is an opportunity. That is how we understand things as prosumers2 and advocates of free software.

The battle against poverty and inequality is above all a battle for the men and women of this world to become daily more free.

And the current choices are clear: there are technologies that restrict and others that liberate.

Hipatia therefore calls on the governments of the world to use, sponsor, and promote free software.

  1. Hipatia emerged as a spontaneous grouping of people from around the world sharing a vision and objective. The vision is one of a global knowledge society based on freedom, equality in diversity, and solidarity. The Hipatia manifestos describe this vision in detail. They can be found at:

    First manifesto
    Second manifesto

    Hipatia takes its name in homage to Hypatia of Alexandria, philosopher, astronomer, mathematician and great teacher, the daughter of Theon, the last teacher of the library of Alexander.

    Hipatia passionately defended freedom, the spirit of scientific investigation, and the spreading of knowledge. Shortly after her tragic death, the last remains of the Library of Alexandria were destroyed. Europe fell into the Dark Ages and it took hundreds of years of the sacrifice of many men and women to escape that darkness.

    Hipatians respect the memory of these great men and women whose sacrifice brought us the freedom and development we enjoy today.

  2. We understand by the term 'prosumers' - producers and consumers - that we are all simultaneously creators and participants in knowledge.