Business models and FLOSS in education

In last several weeks I have been traveling heavily. In number of conference
presentations, meetings and private discussion many brilliant people
have presented many interesting ideas. I’ll sum-up here some of them.
Many of the thoughts are in a way or another related to the question how
are the business models of using free and open software and content in
education.

Doors of
Perception
, Delhi, India.

Jimmy Wales, the founder of
Wikipedia, told that journalist are often asking him what is the
business model behind the Wikipedia? Jimmy answer is that he doesn’t
really care about business models. The Wikimedia
Foundation’s
– the non-governmental organization behind the Wikipedia and several other wiki-projects – aim is simply to give people “free access to the sum of all human knowledge". So far there has been many enough people who share this vision and are willing to donate their time, knowledge, know-how and money. Jimmy
also said that he see that Wikimedia Foundation could maybe one day operate
similar way as the international Red Cross. Nobody is
asking what is the business model of the Red Cross.

Estonia e-University conference, Tartu, Estonia.
My colleague Hans Põldoja said in his presentation that
the Tiger Leap Foundation – the Estonian national funding body of educational software and content
production – has made a decision that in future all the products coming
out from projects funded by them must be released under FLOSS (software)
or Creative Commons (content) licenses. This is a brave move. Something
I would like to see happening among other public funding bodies around
the world. If taxpayers are funding the work, should they also gain
rights in it?

FLOSS and free knowledge communities conference, Tshwane, South Africa.
Angela
Beesley
and Erik Möller, Wikipedia
activists, gave me a great introduction to Wikipedia-thinking. Probably
the most interesting path of development in the Wikipedia community is
the idea of
Wikiversity
– a free online university using the resources of the Wikibooks and hopefully in future
relying on the teaching power of the Wikipedia community. So far the
project looks more a selection of “course books". But if they (or we)
are able to implement proper educational planning, involve voluntary
professors to give the classes, give students assignments and interact
with them, there is a change that it will become a “real university",
similar way as the Wikipedia has become a “real encyclopedia".

Moscow, Russia.
Alexei Shulgin
told me that the western societies and cultures, based on logics, law,
rules and contracts are missing mysticism and metaphysical aspects of
human life. This makes them boring. What is business about?

La Escuel Del Futuro, Granada, Spain.
Angel I. Perez Gomez from the
University of Malaga told me about the
Andalucían Governmental Linux project
. According to him it really works
and has significantly speeded up the process of offering ICT for all
citizens. Pupils in schools and ICT centers are mainly using the GuadaLinex distribution, which
development is funded by the regional government. Same time it has
generate local Linux-based businesses that are offering software and
maintenance services.

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