No, this is not a breakfast item in the White House cafeteria, but something altogether more exciting. Freedom Toasters are kiosks where anyone can burn to CD free & open-source software.

“Like vending machines, preloaded to dispense confectionery, Freedom Toasters are preloaded to dispense free digital products, including software, photography, music and literature.”

I first heard about them from my friend Louis, as there is one installed at Stellenbosch Varsity. I think they are an absolutely FANTASTIC idea. Few people in the first world (particularly countries where connectivity is not only taken for granted, but free wifi abounds!) realise how much of an issue it is just getting time, facilities and bandwidth to download an install file for Firefox, let alone a full Linux distribution.

These machines change the game completely — people don’t need a broadband connection to get at open source resources. All they need is to bring along some blank CD-Rs and burn whatever they want. The initiative is supported by the Shuttleworth Foundation who have provided instructions for anyone to build their own Toaster, effectively open-sourcing the scheme itself! Hopefully we’ll see these continue to pop up all over South Africa, bringing accessible software solutions to more and more people … and personally I can’t wait to actually see one!