NGO in a Box: FOSS Mixtapes for Change

February 08, 2006

The Tactical Technology Collective is a nonprofit based in Amsterdam that has been doing great work distributing Free/Open Source technology to the global NGO sector.

This morning I was reminded (via Worldchanging) that they are working on creating several different "best of" software compliations for NGOs-- kind of like that lovely old mixtape you have in your car, except with encryption tools, spyware tools and Firefox, among many others. And better liner notes. The first to be released was the "Security Edition" last October (which I suppose is, um, not to be confused with the ubiquitous AOL Security Edition discs at the grocery store).

The security version of NGO-in-a-box ... is aimed predominantly at human rights, anti-corruption, and womens groups, independent media and journalists. Its purpose is to help these groups, and those who work as trainers and technical support with these groups, to orient themselves with the kinds of security and protection tools they could use and the ability to easily access and try them out. This boxset is made of three CDs and printed manual.

One of the most important parts of the CDs is the documentation, which somes in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Arabic. (Unfortunately a lot of the software only comes in English.)

It came as some surprise to me that the Security edition comes with a collection of FOSS applications that are designed to run on Windows (TM)(!). I think the decison to run on a closed platform (instead of Linux) was rather unfortunate ... and unfortunately necessary for now. This CD provides a lot of great tools for NGOs at zero cost — and very few of the Tacitcal Tech's audience is up and running with an Open platform on all of their machines. I hope, of course, that this won't be the rule for future releases, but for now it seems pragmatic.

I'm looking forward to their future releases of a "Base Edition" "Advocacy Edition," and especially the "Open Publishing Edition" (they're only a few months behind schedule ...)

Also worth noting: the Tactical Technology Collective is also a great proponent of the E-Riders philosophy + practice. They have a great page about eriding, and will be releasing a new white paper on the subject sometime soon. There is also a good website about E-Riding at ... it's really too bad their blog has been dead all year!