Free Software, Older Computers Help Group Narrow Digital Divide

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

While the Open Source Development Lab works on improving free open-source software for the benefit of Fortune 500 companies, open-source software such as Linux remains a mystery to millions of home computer users. The obstacle is not security or performance, but access.

How do you go about getting Linux or installing it? Who can help you learn to use it or help you fix it if it breaks? Will you be able to read documents created on your sister’s iMac or your boss’ Windows machine?

Free Geek, a Portland nonprofit organization, provides just the service needed — in the words of John Gilmore, an industry insider and open-source expert — to “make free software affordable.”

An older computer running Windows 95 might be sluggish and expensive to maintain. But replace Windows with the free Linux system, and it can feel like new again. Free Geek breathes new life into computer equipment that probably would otherwise end up in a landfill. In early April, the group took in its 10,000th piece of equipment since it was established a little over a year ago.

Little wonder that the group’s biggest supporter is the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, which has provided Free Geek with a $41,070 grant.

In Free Geek’s unique program, not only are old computers revived, but people who otherwise couldn’t afford them receive the computers free and are trained to use them by computer experts who donate their time.

This work is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license, which allows free use, distribution, and creation of derivatives, so long as the license is unchanged and clearly noted, and the original author is attributed.

 

Originally published in the Portland Tribune. Free license declared here.