[K12OSN] The HOSEF Way

R. Scott Belford scott at hosef.org
Tue Feb 8 03:56:20 UTC 2005

I'd like to share with you how we have organized in Hawaii to create 
more education opportunities for our children.

I am not a teacher.  I do not sell software or hardware.  I try very 
hard to teach schools and non-profits how they can build a culture of 
self-reliance and sustainability by using OSS, recycled computer 
equipment, and the existing braintrust in their organization or 
community.  I do not get paid.

Like many others, I want to earn money from OSS.  I see how much our 
schools already spend, and it easy to see my share.  The thing is, I'm 

I'm afraid that if I use my entrpreneurialism to extract a few more 
dollars that belong in the hands of a teacher or a principal that the 
decay of America's education infrastructure will become more eminent.  I 
am afraid that if we don't provide more hope to our youth by showing 
them that *they* can install a server, set up a lab, and then do it for 
the school next door, then we may never again educate another programmer 
like Eric.  I am afraid to profit from our schools when they need so 
much help from people like us.  That is not the HOSEF way.

Just like the rest of you in your respective school districts, we have a 
great and diverse group of folks in Hawaii who care about OSS and 
education.  Just like every other state, we have a LUG.  We decided a 
few years ago that we needed an entity to provide the charitable 
back-end to our efforts, and I'd love to see every state do the same thing.

You see, software developers are lucky.  By working together on 
programs, they have something around which they can organize.  Those of 
us completely unwilling to program anything beyond the /etc directory 
can feel left out when looking for ways to help.

To give average folks like myself a way to learn about linux while 
helping our schools, I founded HOSEF, The Hawaii Open Source Education 
Foundation.  We have a simple mission: to promote and sustain the use of 
Open Source Software through advocacy, outreach, support, and the 
accumulation, restoration, and contribution of donated computer hardware 
from the general public.

Incorporated as a non-profit, we have 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.  This 
enables UH to provide mirror capacity, for local schools to donate 
storage space, and for local businesses to write off their donated 
computer equipment.  By donating computer labs to numerous schools, we 
now use these very facilities on weekends for meetings, classes, and "to 
turn the wheel of refurbishment."

Think of it as your LUG in Action.  By organizing around a charitable 
mission like recycling hardware for use as thin clients, you can build 
competency, promote Linux, and bridge the proverbial digital divide. 
Plus, you get to meet one another, interact, and to build and grow your 
  social network.

Make no mistake, though.  Giving schools hardware with no chance at 
self-reliance simply perpetuates the problematic culture of support 
dependency.  We like to say that 16% of what we do is give away 
hardware.  From there we focus on classes, support, training, and 
competency with the goal being to teach the school not to need anyone 
but itself for support and its community for computers.  Easier said 
that done, but imagine the financial ramifications for our schools.

Just as anyone who ever open sourced their app has learned, it is 
amazing who will come out of the woodwork to help if you give them the 
chance.  We have certainly learned this with HOSEF as we continue to 
find more and more people who want to help.

Can we help every school, right now, for free, if they want to use OSS? 
  No.  Not yet.  Are we self-sustaining beyond the goodwill of a bunch 
of volunteers? No, not yet.  But, isn't this kind of like any OSS 
project where the main supporters actually earn their income from other 
sources?  Isn't your state's school money better spent on curricula 
enhancing applications and documentation instead of commodity hardware 
and software?

Think about it.

Get tax-exempt status
Recycle and Donate PCs
Install and Sustain OSS
Watch your local economy grow
Go make money off of the private sector
Support your favorite OSS project


R. Scott Belford
The Hawaii Open Source Education Foundation
PO Box 392
Kailua, HI 96734
808.689.6518 phone/fax
scott at hosef.org

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