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FKFT - Free knowledge with SELF


During an intensive three day period, participants from the Phillipines, Mexico, Tanzania, USA, and many other countries around the world, not excluding Spain itself, gathered around the Free Knowledge, Free Technology conference in Barcelona. The conference, organised by the SELF Project, focused on the production and sharing of free educational and training materials about the concept of Free Software.

Free Software, as opposed to proprietary software, can be copied, studied, modified and redistributed without restrictions. Over the past twenty years, it has become an important cornerstone of the Internet and many critical applications in todays society, being especially useful for governments due to its inherent democratic properties.

Around 200 people attended the conference which was divided into three different tracks, with speakers such as Richard Stallman from the Free Software Foundation, Carlos Castro from Junta de Extremadura and Karel De Vriendt from the IDABC.

In the Free Knowledge in Society track, Kim Tucker of the Meraka Institute of the CSIR in South Africa held an animated afternoon talk on freedom, going back to the utalitarian goal of UNESCO: World Peace. According to Kim, there is no chance for world peace until we have been able to establish a sharing culture in the world, of which Free Software and the movements around it, are an important pillar.

At the same time, in another room and track of the conference, Balthas Seibold from InWEnt spoke about how capacity building in free software is an integral part of the enabling of SMEs in Africa. In many ways, Kim and Balthas shared a common understanding: the promotion of a spirit of sharing is of utmost importants in todays society. Balthas pointed out that regional communities without a spirit of sharing creates a lack of trust between the regions.

But that would be a disgression from the actual SELF project, which is, according to the coordinator Wouter Tebbens during his keynote, a knowledge base and a collaborative production facility for educational materials about Free Software and Open Standards. This comes with some additional implications though: a collaborative production facility inherently encourages sharing in many different ways, not only directly by encouraging sharing of educational materials on Free Software and Open Standards.

The SELF Project intends for the future to expand upon the platform and make it available not only for educational materials on Free Software but also for educational materials on other subjects, thereby spreading a sharing culture even to educational subjects not usually touched by such messages, something which will inherently contribute not only to the SELF project itself, but to the whole community.

Another project similar to this, as also pointed out by Wouter Tebbens, is the well known Wikipedia project, which is a free and multilingual encyclopedia project which advocates a similar method of sharing and encouraging of collaborative development. However, the Wikipedia project has a different approach to the structuring of its content and the SELF project intends to adapt the Wikipedia approach by providing a different way of structuring its content which is more compatible with the nature of educational materials.

As the conference draws to a close, the project is also entering its second phase, where the work already done with the European Commission financing will now need to be continued by the partners involved, and where other partners may soon find themselves engaged in a project which has all the right ingredients for contributing significantly to the community in the future.

The presentations and videos of the recorded sessions can be found here: If you have anything that needs to be added, let us know!

SELF - Science Education and Learning in Freedom