Free Software Foundation

Free software centers to promote software literacy and ethics

Information communications technology

Global network of free software centers promoting ethics in technology. Centers will offer after school education, programming classes, hardware reuse program, and community/civic space.

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Lead Organization

Free Software Foundation

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

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To learn more about – or provide significant funding to – this project, please contact Lever for Change.

Project Summary

Technology is embedded in all facets of life, whether we know it or not. If we are not able to understand or control the software in our lives, then we are not in control of our lives. Proprietary, nonfree software is locked away from users; free software is free as in freedom, because the user is free to view, copy, edit, and share the software. A lack of awareness and resources about free software is the significant barrier to society being in control of its technology.This problem can be solved by a global network of free software centers, providing education, resources, and safe space for all ages to learn about free software. This project replicates and scales the success of the FSF. Due to lack of resources, we have had difficulty reaching developing countries as well as those in the mainstream who we have not been able to engage.

Problem Statement

Technology impacts nearly all humans on nearly all levels -- social, cultural, geopolitical, economic, medical, legal, and even romantic. It is a fundamental social injustice for much of this technology to be run on proprietary, nonfree software, outside the control of the user and often violating basic rights such as privacy, security, knowledge, ownership, and health. Proprietary software, possibly one of the most critical issues of our time, serves companies who rely on control over the user, comprising and perpetuating a trillion-dollar market. Examples of the dangers of nonfree software include: Amazon and Microsoft deleting ebooks despite users "owning" them; Volkswagen lying to regulators and customers through proprietary emissions-deceiving software; and self-driving vehicles endangering human life. The answer to nonfree software is free software, which is free as in freedom, not price. Free software can be used, edited, copied, and shared by anyone. Free software is free because the user is free. Existing for over 30 years, free software is everywhere -- Wikipedia, WordPress, core components of Android, in use by NASA, NYSE/Euronext, as well as the US Department of Defense, and powering most of the servers running the global Internet. However, the majority of people do not know about, and often have no easy way to engage with, free software. The most influential way to combat nonfree software is to increase free software adoption and usage. This can be done by promoting free software development as well as by educating users of all ages about free software.

Solution Overview

The proposed project is to establish 100 Free Software Centers around the world, rolling out 25 Centers each year over 4 years. Centers will serve as civic space, with programs for all ages, including free software literacy for youth, free software development training for teens and professionals, and free software licensing education for lawyers. The Center will serve as a community space for locals to attend lectures, workshops, and hold meetings about free software; the space will also be used as a gathering place to mobilize for direct action against nonfree software injustices. Each Center will become part of the community fabric and engage with all constituents, including those in local government. Centers will also showcase hardware that runs on free software, to provide an accessible physical outlet for anyone to use free software.The Free Software Center worldwide network will yield short- and long-term impacts on both local and global scales, through local efforts and resources as well as through alignment and partnership with other Centers. The Centers will build awareness about free software while concurrently providing education and resources, as well as fostering relationships and the creation of a self-sustaining, global yet local, community.Beneficiaries of the project will be users of the Center. The free software community as a whole will also benefit by becoming stronger, more expansive, and more diverse. Desired outcomes include free software becoming a mainstream, kitchen table issue and ongoing usage of the self-sustaining Centers.

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