Where Africa and Technology Collide!

An Open Source Disc-Burning Kiosk

Freedom ToasterSpringwise is running a story on Freedom Toaster. Backed by the Shuttleworth Foundation (behind Ubuntu Linux, the popular open source option to Windows) it’s a free kiosk that allows anyone to put a disc in it and burn a copy of Linux, OpenOffice, and some e-books. It’s a very interesting concept, and it fits perfectly into low, or spotty, bandwidth areas like Africa.

…a Freedom Toaster is much like a candy vending machine. Users insert a CD, follow the easy instructions on the touch-screen monitor and—presto—a copy of Linux is “toasted” by the unit’s internal CD burner. Since copies of the software come from the kiosk’s own hard drive, there’s no need to hook the Toaster up to the web, a major plus in areas where broadband access is scarce.

Many open source software devotees are trying to push African companies and government institutions into accepting the use of options like Linux and OpenOffice into their organizations. It’s proven and it cuts costs dramatically. Luckily, Freedom Toaster also provides the plans and manuals for you to create your own version and start making it available in your country.

(hat tip Tzaadi)


  1. This would really be useful here in Nairobi, where every now and then, people ask for distribution X

  2. Hi All, our OpenCafe ( Potchefstroom, South Africa) received a toaster in 2005 – not used as much as it should – we do have our circle of toaster enthusiasts who come regularly for some “toasting fun”:-) armed with loads of blank CDs and DVDs:)

    Please contact us for more info or if you have your own and would like to exchange ideas on new features, new content for your toaster.

  3. Josiah, I think this would be an excellent project for the Nairobi Skunkworks group to get behind. I remember our rather extended conversation this summer about the need to get the local community educated and starting to use OS products – this might be just the vehicle.

    Szavanna, did you build your own? How many people would you say have used it? Also, how much do you guys tout the availability of it (marketing)?

  4. Jason and Brett just came through this past Sunday to update our Freedom Toaster in George with all the latest goodies. Thanks guys, you rock big time!!

  5. Hi Hash – Charl!

    Yes Brett came to Potch recently to update our toaster as well! It’s great – we have all the new distros! Thanks Brett – if you ever read this. Charl – please keep in touch – Brett says he is gonna set up a blog…. I am really not an expert – I could do with some guidance!

    Hash – we applied and got our toaster from the Shuttleworth Foundation. Though not many use it – I have no idea exactly how many people – but let’s say not more than 100 people used it. This is a small town – so we don’t have too much traffic. Also, people have no clue what Linux/Open source is – even though they might be using it every day.

    Still thinking of new ideas and ways of marketing – we started the OpenCafe in 2004 and have held events, trained people, had barcamps – to market the ideas – we find it is better to work with those that already know how open source/open content projects work – most others in town are just not into open source software – which I suppose is normal 🙂

    We do work on projects with the local university – where there is FabLab (http://fab.cba.mit.edu/about/) – which is running Ubuntu on their computers – during a recent competition – the students had to use OpenOffice Draw to design their components to create a lamp – then they used the FabLab to “print” the lamp out.

    We find that marketing through projects is a great way to let people know about the cafe, the toaster etc.

  6. Our Freedom Toaster at UWC has arrived, and it has been extremely busy Toasting CDs and DVDs filled with Free and Open Source Software.
    what a cool initiative Yeeaahh!!

    Thanks Shuttleworth and CO,

  7. This is genius but I’ve got to confess to still not taking up the Linux/ open-source learning curve.
    What about an easy-walk-through Disc covering the changeover from Windows to Linux ?.. I’ve a whole bunch of friends in the UK who’d love one too, not to mention our Kenyan hosts.

  8. I’m currently attending a FOSS (Free and Open Source Software) workshop in Nairobi and we were discussing some of the barriers in Africa to adoption of OSS technology and the fostering of OSS communities and developers. Ease of access to open source packages, resources, and distributions were one of the barriers. A student at Jomo Kenyatta U. talked about not being able to get access to computers that were installed with Linux during his free time (after school hours or weekends). I thought that if he could’ve gotten a disc of Ubuntu, say from a FT, he could take the disc into a cyber cafe, boot the machine off the cd and start to get familiar with linux. Anyway look forward to seeing these pop up around the world.

  9. So today I had some time and still hadn’t received my Ubuntu Gutsy cd so I decided to head to Canal Walk just outside of Cape Town and try and find one of these freedom toasters. Well find I did, it even had a vending machine next to it where you could by blank cd’s and dvd’s. We ended up getting the latest version of Ubuntu and Suse. A few things it offered was Firemonger, OpenCD, About 12 distros of Linux, Gutenberg Project, some Videos on opensource, etc. Overall I think it was a bit confusing to use. It was slow to respond after touching various options, and while we burnt a couple of distros we couldn’t figure out how to swap one distro for opencd. We ended up giving up and just going away with our two distros. But it was great not having to spend money on downloading the distro! Anyway I’d be interested in seeing how a regular old user handles one of these …

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