Flying the Kite High Against Digital Colonialism: FOSS in the Era of EdTech

internet technology computer display
Photo by Markus Spiske on

In 2001, the Kerala government launched an EdTech project, IT@School, that was successfully pressured to resist digital colonialism. Recognizing how Microsoft, the tech super-giant of the day, threatened to undermine digital self-determination, activists and teacher’s unions pushed the Kerala government to make Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) mandatory in public schools. While IT@School and its successor, KITE, are scarcely known outside of India, their success over the past two decades presents an important model for resistance to Big Tech.

Michael Kwet

In this thought-provoking article by Michael Kwet, the author highlights the importance of avoiding digital colonialism and emphasizes the role of free and open-source software (FOSS) in promoting global digital justice. The article specifically focuses on the context of educational technology (EdTech) and its potential implications for marginalized communities.

Kwet defines “digital colonialism” as a phenomenon where powerful technology companies from developed countries dominate and control the digital infrastructure and services of less-developed nations. This leads to a dependence on foreign corporations, resulting in a loss of control over data, infrastructure, and decision-making processes. Kwet argues that this creates a new form of colonization where power and influence are exerted through digital means.

One solution proposed by Kwet is the promotion and adoption of free and open-source software (FOSS). FOSS refers to software that is freely available for anyone to use, modify, and distribute. It operates under a transparent and collaborative model, allowing communities to take ownership and control over their digital tools. Kwet believes that by embracing FOSS, countries can regain autonomy over their technological systems, reducing their reliance on foreign entities and fostering local innovation.

The article also highlights the global digital justice movement, which seeks to address the power imbalances and inequalities created by digital colonialism. This movement advocates for the rights of marginalized communities to access and control their own digital infrastructure, ensuring that technology is used to empower rather than exploit. The global digital justice movement emphasizes the need for fair and inclusive digital policies that prioritize the interests and well-being of all individuals, particularly those who have historically been marginalized or excluded.

Kwet warns against the pitfalls of relying solely on proprietary software and foreign corporations for EdTech solutions. He argues that this approach perpetuates the dominance of global technology giants, perpetuating digital colonialism and hindering local development. Instead, he encourages governments, educators, and technologists to explore and implement FOSS alternatives that empower communities, promote knowledge-sharing, and foster digital sovereignty.

In conclusion, the article emphasizes the importance of avoiding digital colonialism in the realm of EdTech. It encourages the adoption of FOSS as a means to promote global digital justice, empower marginalized communities, and regain control over digital infrastructure. By embracing these principles, societies can strive toward a more equitable and inclusive digital future.

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