The best way for any individual to help is to get involved. After all, Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) exists because the FOSS software user is the developer. In many cases, the user becomes the developer, because FOSS ensures that they have that right. It can be empowering or scary, and sometimes both.
Getting involved doesn't necessarily mean becoming a programmer (although we certainly encourage that - anyone can program. It just takes a bit of enthusiasm, and some free and open source software!). Other ways you can get involved include:
- sign up for the NZOSS "OpenChat" mailing list and develop an understanding of the issues we, as a community, face and find interesting. If you're interested, too, then participate! We're a pretty friendly bunch. That's where most interesting ideas first come to light, and where events get planned and discussed.
- go along to a Software Freedom Day to learn and help.
- use free and open source software. Start small, see how you go. If you like it, and the opportunities it provides, explore a bit more. That's how all of us got into it.
Before you know it, you'll find yourself doing helpful things like
- organising or helping with events,
- advocating for free and open source software positions to government and businesses,
- teaching others,
- contributing documentation to FOSS projects that interest you,
- and heck, you might even find yourself "cutting some code" (i.e. writing software).
When it comes down to it, FOSS is really just a software-focused manifestation of what every child learns in kindergarten (if not before): "share and share alike". It's a good lesson to learn in general, and (contrary to many people's expectations) it's produced an incredible amount of great software.