Tactical FOSS

In my blog post a couple weeks ago I suggested non-profits should package up some free software solutions into niche packages and sell them as a fund raiser. The idea that there is so much FOSS available, the preselecting, testing and validating is a value added component worth paying for.

Well I'm not sure how many non-profits have started that yet, but there is a non-profit in Amsterdam that calls itself the Tactical Technology Collective which has begun creating packages of FOSS specifically for non-profits. Funded by the Open Society Institute, Omidyar, USAID, Hivos and UNDP/APDIP, the collective aims to assist socially oriented organizations around the world by providing FOSS packages, consulting and training.

It is similar to DOTrust.org although is dedicated to FOSS whereas Dotrust is agnostic.

The Tactical Technology Collective was started by Stephanie Hankey from the Open Society Institute and Marek Tuszynski a non-profit IT consultant. The Collective's mission is “to strengthen social technology movements and networks in developing and transition countries, as well as promote civil society's effective, conscious and creative use of new technologies.”

They do this through three major initiatives.

Tactical Tech holds what they call Source Events which are hands on workshops for both practical application of technologies like setting up wireless networks to support non-profits' work to technology consulting on more abstract policy and advocacy issues. They hold these events around the world but principally in Africa and Asia. The last event held in Africa in Kalangala, Uganda emphasized how non-profits could use FOSS to support their missions and how to spread FOSS throughout their non-profit communities.

The second initiative is called “NGO in a box.” The Base “NGO in a box” will (second release) contain a variety of FOSS that will assist in the management and running of non-profit organizations and will include Ubuntu as the operating system, with undoubtedly Open Office, various communications systems, volunteer management and content publishing systems. It will also provide guides for non-profits making the switch to FOSS.

There are several physical packages Tactical Tech has brought together beyond its “Base Box” that have already been released. The Open Publishing box (just released) contains FOSS for small advocacy groups, arts groups, media groups and culture creators. The box contains desktop publishing and graphic design, fonts and image manipulation software. It also has guides and software on blogs, wikis, content management systems and media advocacy.

The Security box includes a collection of FOSS for human rights, anti-corruption, and womens groups, independent media and journalists. It contains anti virus, firewalls, encryption, secure data deletion and communications technologies. The effort is to provide these organizations with secure tools to assist them in enhancing the security around performing their sensitive work.

The Audio/Video edition of NGO in a Box contains FOSS AV technologies that open up possibilities for transforming the balance of forces in the realm of media production for small organizations around the world especially those in 3rd world countries.

The third focus for Tactical Tech is supporting the eRider movement. “eRiders are roving information and communications technology (ICT) consultants who provide one-to-one advice, planning, training and on-going support to non-governmental organisations (NGOs).” Tactical Tech has set up eRider projects in Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Southern Africa.

You can download NGO in a Box components and here's the link to the Open publishing project. http://openpublishing.ngoinabox.org/

So while Tactical Technology has launched the concept of packaging FOSS for the non-profit sector, the non-profit sector itself still needs to get up to speed on FOSS and organize a collective support network to assist them with implementation and management issues.

Tactical Tech can't support the world and there aren't enough eRider programs available...yet.

I still feel this sector lags behind in understanding the value inherent in the FOSS approach, but it should be interesting to see how "NGO in a Box" catches on. I believe Tactical Tech is working in the right market, in Africa and Asia. The entreprenurial spirit is very strong amongst third world non-profits, coops, communities and micro entreprenurs and FOSS will make a big difference in helping these non-profits assist with their missions and connect to a larger world. Africa after all is the birth place of Ubuntu.

The FOSS philosophy is very communal, very social and highly collaborative - three perspectives also promoted by the non-profit sector.

All things considered it should be an interesting future.


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