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Author: BD Vitharana

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Diverse Challenges to A2K Activism: A Southern Perspective

When we participated the virtual round table more than a year and a half ago A2K was not a theme rallying those who worked on issues connected to access to knowledge in Sri Lanka. We, however, identified

The Foss movement

The Seeds movement and

The Anti-globalisation movement,

as active movements that had the potential for providing leadership to an A2K movement in Sri Lanka along with us, the Access to Knowledge Study Group at the Open University of Sri Lanka and to take the initiative to introduce and popularize the concept “access to knowledge”. Though we were in favour of defining A2K in the broadest possible sense to incorporate A2K issues that have nothing to do with IPR (still the main barrier to A2K within the context of Sri Lanka and the context of a majority of developing countries) for instance, questioning the marginalisation of informal knowledge in the face of formal knowledge and power at play in knowledge production, we confined ourselves to discuss A2K against the restrictions posed by IPR when we identified the above 3 movements as the potential partners of the A2K movement in Sri Lanka.

It is important to note very briefly what has happened during this last one and half years because that discussion itself would shed more light on A2K issues on the ground, and issues that would influence the emergence of an A2K movement. The seeds movement and anti-globalisation movements (to the extent that one can identify them as movements as we discussed at the virtual round table) have not been particularly active; this is not because the IPR related A2K issues have been resolved but because a diversion of funding that supported such movements to other countries after the conclusion of the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamil Tigers and also to other thematic areas such as climate change, postwar reconstruction, debt , social and cultural rights, etc. A few of the prominent Colombo-based NGOs that were active in seeds and anti-globalisation activism and there NGO/CBO network Island wide are struggling for survival. In contrast to that we see the expansion of FOSS initiatives in universities, the public sector and the private sector. The stricter implementation of the IPR law is the reason behind this. Software piracy is represented as a criminal activity and regular raids are conducted on software and VCD/DVD vendors and private institutions. A special unit has now being established at the Criminal Investigation Department to conduct these raids.

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