May 10th, 16.30 CEST, the crowd is awaiting at the entrance of the Vertex building. Labdoo, a social network aiming at bringing a laptop to every child in non-developed regions, and ourselves – the Distributed Applications and Networks Area – prepared a conference entitled “Free software initiative and GNU: towards a free digital society”. We had the support of telecos.cat and the Technical University of Catalonia: the UPC. Why the crowd was so excited? Mr. Richard Stallman, president of the Free Software Foundation, was giving a speech.
17.00 CEST. Everything is ready and there is still hundreds of persons awaiting to get into the room. An announcement is made, everyone breathes out peacefully: “The speech will start fifteen minutes later in order to enable all the attendees reach their sits”. 17.15 CEST. The moment has arrived; more than four hundred people populating the room. Sergi, DANA’s director introduces the guests.
On the one hand, Jordi Ros, Labdoo’s founder, starts introducing the organisation. Labdoo is a social network whose objective is to bring laptops to childs around the globe, with special focus on non-developed regions. In the richer countries, every year more than a hundred million laptops are replaced by new ones.
This number continues to increase, yet most of the children in the poor regions of the world still lack access to education. The goal of Labdoo is to use grassroots, decentralized, social networking tools to efficiently bring excess laptops to the children in the developing world without wasting additional Earth resources. Jordi stated clearly what he aimed when creating Labdoo:
A laptop is a door to education, providing children free access to open source education tools and electronic books through the Internet.
18.00 CEST. The moment has arrived. Richard, after some issues preparing the microphone, starts talking. First of all, he kindly asks and triggers an interesting question:
Please, do no upload any photo of this talk to Facebook. Heh… Everyone wants a digital society, and everyone assumes this to be good. But what happens if the digital society is not good?
He is a free software warrior, and he acts in consequence in every moment of the talk (although it is widely now that he acts in consequence in every moment of his life). He advocates that “Free software” means software that respects users’ freedom and community. Roughly, the users have the freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software. With these freedoms, the users (both individually and collectively) control the program and what it does for them. Mr. Stallman keeps on explaining the advantages of the free software: when users don’t control the program, the program controls the users. You can check the free software foundation website for more details.
Suddently, Richard expresses he is not feeling good. He asks whether there is any doctor in the audience or not. Some general confusion. He continues with the speech. He expresses again that he is worried. More confusion. We ask for paramedics. Richard keeps on talking. He believes in his free software message, completely. Although his bad feelings, he still holds the energy to make some jokes regarding the political situation in Spain, and the new government. 18.40 CEST. He has to stop. Finally, paramedics reached the venue and the conference had to be cancelled. Mr. Stallman must be brought to the hospital. He was not suffering a heart attack. He did not passed the night in the hospital. Press release.
Mr. Stallman may seem rude. He may interrupt you to correct something you said that was not mathematically correct. To talk to him you need to be completely specific. You may agree with his principles. You may disagree. You may also disagree with his activism; or you may see him as a hero. He will not blame you for disagreeing. What you will not remain is indifferent. And mainly, what you can learn from Mr. Stallman is that you must be coherent in your life. You must act according to your thoughts and ideals, and you must be aware of all the implications this may have.
From these lines, we would like thank Richard for coming to Barcelona and lighting us with his tireless fight; and we thank also Jordi for introducing Labdoo and aiming to bring laptops to every child. Remember to follow us on our twitter account to be up to date in our activities!
Disclosure and disclaimer: I am engaged in the Distributed Applications and Networks Area, within the i2CAT Foundation. However, the opinions expressed in this post are my personal, and not those of my employer.
Labdoo:Thanks to the social network approach, Labdoo, in just a bit more than two years, has created nineteen hubs around the world and is currently serving thirty school projects across Africa, South America, Eastern Europe and South East Asia.