The Case of SchoolNet Namibia/Operations/Activities/Advocacy

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Recall that among of the Challenges mentioned earlier were countering the FUD Factor and Changing Mindsets to recognise the opportunities and value of free software, open education and libre knowledge.

Policy and decision makers in government, particularly those concerned with ICT and education, were the primary stakeholders to convince.

On behalf of citizens for a democratic society characterised by transparency, freedom, equality, and social inclusion, SchoolNet continually lobbied for a free/libre and open source policy incorporating libre/open content, and for refreshing new legislation on copyright embracing the Creative Commons.

Without strong commitment by government and the legislation to protect and guarantee it, civil servants will continually be at risk of being misled by FUD and corrupted by incentives from commercial organisations who benefit by restricting citizens and forcing a permissions-based society, disempowered in terms of cooperation and sharing for collective benefit.

For SchoolNet Namibia, changing mindsets needed to reach beyond the national education authorities. The free culture[1] movement, open education[2], open educational resources, and various forms of libre knowledge[3] were affecting the education space in ways which had particularly positive implications for the developing world. Teachers and learners would have the freedom to use, localise, adapt, enhance and share such resources without having to obtain permission to do so. Crucially, peer production[4] and sharing of locally appropriate resources would be an efficient way to bridge the knowledge divide.

SchoolNet Namibia actively promoted these concepts within government circles, at regional and international education events, and implicitly among the volunteers, educators and learners touched by their activities.

This was clearly successful at international levels and among the volunteers, learners and teachers. It held its own for many years within national education authorities but ultimately failed as proprietary interests gained the upper hand in Namibian public education in 2009.

The fact is that powerful and extremely well resourced entities with a vested interest in retaining mindsets of closed resources as the ultimate solution engage in advocacy activities of their own. As indicated in the section on the FUD Factor above, they have an advantage.

  1. See for related links.
  2. See for background from the perspective of open educational resources (OER).