[EN] The Freedom Ladder for Educational Institutions: A certification system to promote the adoption of Free Software and Ethical Digital Platforms by Institutions, specially those involved on education.

Problem Statement #

Nowadays, all kind of Institutions are deeply immersed in the use of non-ethical digital platforms. This brings them:

High support costs #

When using Proprietary Software, you are usually bound to a monopolistic support provider, which dictates licenses as fees escaping the free market idea.

Lack of resilience #

Relying on one entity or corporation that provides you the software of service makes you vulnerable to any uncertainty that might affect this entity in the future.

Lack of control of own data #

When you use a non-free platform or software, you usually are not the owner, do not host, or don’t have control over the formats of your data, making migrations difficult, thereby encouraging you to stay on their platform.

Mandatory participation in surveillance capitalism through spyware #

Most non-free platforms and software nowadays have some kind of personal data gathering or spyware, which feeds a worldwide databank and artificial intelligence which is used for marketing, hacking democracy and general manipulation and control of human behavior.

Contribution to social status quo #

The actual non-free platforms and standards are normalized because of billionaire corporate lobbies, and sustained by people and institutions acknowledging them as the “universal”, “common”, “popular” or “de-facto”. This generates a viral effect, as the more people sustain it, the more people accept it. Getting pioneer groups and institutions off this normalized status quo is a way to propose a new standard, based on the respect of human rights and society’s freedom.

This is even more problematic on educational institutions, as:

Indoctrination of Children into non-free tools as the only/universal ones #

Children are being grown, alphabetized and grown in proprietary standards, software and platforms, thus contributing to a future in which the normalization of this de-facto, unquestioned system prevails.

How it Should Be #

Institutions should be well informed and free to choose, considering the pros and cons of choosing a proprietary platform/software/standard over a free/ethical one.

Educational institutions should use and teach on free standards, software and platforms, encouraging hacking, collaboration and the benefit of society of equal opportunities, respecting individual rights, freedom and privacy.

Proposal #

We propose an integrated strategic implementation to promote the adoption of free software, standards and platforms by educational (and other) institutions.

This will follow the FSF’s “Freedom Ladder” concept as a non specifical set of archetypes, which can be described in concrete steps that are illustrated by different concepts and colors, and give different types of reward. This Freedom Ladder should be defined and popularized as far as possible, so the colors and archetypes related to the specific stages become well-known and recognizable characters that can be applied not only to this proposal (Educational Institutions), but also to different other fields.

There should be an international team of facilitators which give the talks and workshops and help the Institution achieve each Stage’s goals, so there should also be a training curriculum and agenda.

The following curriculum is a proposal and work in progress, all requirements, structure and rewards are written to inspire and give a basis to build on it.

The Freedom Ladder Implementations #

The Freedom Ladder should have a general, basic, simple and clear structure which defines the main stages, its goals and challenges. But then, depending on the situation, The Freedom Ladder spawns into different implementations, with a pedagogical and strategical language choosen to fit a specific context or audience (schools, corporations, individuals, children, communities, etc.). Just to give one example:

The Freedom Ladder as a psycho-ludical tool (specially for young audiences) #

The Freedom Ladder could be portrayed as an artistic depiction of the digital liberation process through the invocation of imaginal realms. This quality calls for a broader perception and disposition, which opens up the willingness to participate and allows ludic reward and incentives. An example could be something like “The Liberation Map”, which should be pictured by an artist, in which, in a beautifully illustrated plate, you can see each stage of the Freedom Ladder as a geographical/fantasy map where roads and its forks go through mountains, rivers, towns, monsters, etc. This is a literal example of “Charting the course”!

Challenges #

The main challenge is finding the motivation in institutions to invest resources in the transition process. Once the certification system gets global recognition, this is no longer an issue, and in fact can be a source of income for the certifying entities. But before people validates the recognition, efforts have to be made in order for the system to germinate and come into view.

Incentives beyond the seal itself: #

  • Community

    Being part of a peer community that gives support and motivation makes you feel you’re not alone or in a crazy endeavour.

  • Solving basic functionalities

    Some institutions haven’t yet solved some basic software needs. The Freedom Ladder could help them implement the solutions from scratch.

  • Optimizing basic functionalities

    Some institutions already have systems to solve their problems, but they don’t work as they should/could. The Freedom Ladder could offer optimization to these systems.

  • Integration with pedagogical goals

    The work needed to be done in order to transition the school to free software and systems constitutes a wonderful opportunity to be used as a pedagogical instance in which the activities are carried out in the classroom, by the students themselves, guided by a Freedom Mentor and the technology class teacher.

  • Getting support

    Both the community and the Freedom Mentors could supply support to ongoing needs.

  • Complying with regulations

    Although, as of November 2022, we are not aware of any nation’s regulations regarding the ethical use of software in education, we can hope the future will bring them.

  • Being awarded for being a pioneer

    This is similar to how kickstarter/patreon campaigns work. People invest resources in a project by “funding” it, and get special rewards and perks if the project makes it into production. In the case of the Freedom Ladder, the investment comes not necesarilly exclusively in the form of money, but perhaps mostly in the form of dedicated time. So, there is a scale in which schools get a special recognition the closer to the start of the program that they enter it or achieve its goals.

Process #

Central Commitee #

  • Certifies Freedom Mentor teams in local organization
  • Monitors
  • Mantains registry of entities and their achievements
  • Promotes program

Maybe not in a first stage, but later:

  • Channels funds to finance Freedom Mentors work.

Local Organizations #

  • Carry on the program first as Freedom Mentor volunteers, then paid for their work by:
  • Donations channeled through an NGO associated with the Central Commitee
  • Donations channeled through the local organization
  • Fees paid by the institution taking the program.

Fields of Action #

  • Implementation of Free Software and Ethical Platforms in administration systems
  • Training of Teachers and school personnel
  • Education for students through integration with Technology curriculum/classes

The Educational Institution Freedom Ladder Curriculum: Stages #


  • Stage 1: Introductory Talk

    • Minimum staff members: 50%

    • Subjects:

      • Source and binary code
      • Economic systems based on collaboration
      • Libre and Proprietary Software
      • Surveillance Capitalism
      • By-effects of dystopical platforms algorithms
    • Reward: Stage 1 Badge (color and animal/character)

  • Stage 2: Free Office and Documents

    • Minimum staff members: 50%
    • Activities:
      • Introducing OpenDocument v/s Microsoft OOXML
      • Installing LibreOffice on every computer
      • Teaching everybody to use LibreOffice
      • Executing a simple project on LibreOffice and sharing OpenDocument files.
  • Stage 3: Free Internet Browsing

    • Minimum staff members:
    • Activities:
      • Browser + privacy extensions
  • Stage 4: Free Operating System

    • GNU/Linux
  • Stage 5: Free Social Networks

    • Fediverse


Institution has to first make a decision regarding their server platform (depending on their resources, location (access to reliable internet connection?) and services frequency of use):

  • On premises hosting
    • SBC
    • Full Server
  • Hired external hosting
    • Shared Hosting
    • VPS
  • Stage 6: Website + E-mail

    • Website
    • E-mail
  • Stage 7: Free, Private Communications

    • Mumble
    • Jitsi/BigBlueButton
    • XMPP/Matrix
  • Stage 8: Free Cloud

    • Nextcloud Drive
    • Calendar
  • Stage 8: Video Hosting

    • Peertube

      =to be continued=