Free operating system, free software and free content are all great for us who have direct access to computer technology. However a huge majority – actually several billion people – of the world do not. If we want that “every single person is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge” (Wikipedia Mission Statement) we need alternative distribution channels – something like a “Freedom Press”.
Many blogs are writing about the Freedom Toaster. With the Freedom Toaster – located in public space – visitors can make copies of open source software, for free on their own CDs. Freedom Toaster is made in South Africa and designed for African needs.
Many great FLOSS projects come at the moment from Africa. For instance the Free High School Science Textbook project is providing full study books on physics, chemistry and mathematics for Grades 10-12. What is remarkable is that this is not a plan or an idea, like most “free school book” projects around the world; the books are already online for anyone to download.
The National Curriculum on Wiki is another great FLOSS project that is coming from Africa. I like this, because information in a Wiki is dynamic and always under development. This is what curriculum should be. Curriculum should not be a static document that is made once for the next ten years. People should talk about it, fix, modify and improve it. South Africa seems to be leading the way to the Jimbo Wales prediction.
Despite of all these very good initiatives, free content does not help you much if you never get in touch with it. Most people do not, and never will, have a computer (either running propriety or FLOS software) and this is not likely to change soon.
What about having a Freedom Press – a similar kind of facility as the Freedom Toaster, but for printing out free content?
The Freedom Press should have a computer and a hard disk filled up with selected free content books and a printer unit. The content should be ready to print format (Latex, PDF). Both content and computer should be easy to maintain from distance. People could bring their own paper (or buy it from the spot) and print out content generated out from the Wikipedia,
Gutenberg and FHSST.
A local entrepreneur from a Tele-centre or a paper shop could run the Freedom Press, or it could be run by a local authority. People in far away villages could pool their money, make a trip to the closest Freedom Press, print out a collection and start a library back home.
Send me a picture if you’ll make a prototype of the Freedom Press.