Its time to start giving back

Community Digital Divide Sustainable FOSS
London Meetup

PINE64’s commitment to giving back to the community, partner projects and the society has been outlined by TL Lim during our community meetup in Hyde Park, London on 18 August, 2018. 

 No one has ever become poor by giving ~ Anne Frank

Free as in a bird, not as a beer. Libre and not gratis. We all understand this concept while simultaneously appreciating that open source software is, for the most part, also free of charge to regular end-users. By relying on donations and sponsorships to make revenue and keep the light on, most projects maintain a low barrier to entry for new and prospectus users. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can readily use just about any Linux or *BSD operating system, as well as any open software these OS’ run. Not to mention that anyone is welcome to study, contribute to and alter the said software. I know that I am preaching to the choir but FOSS is amazing. That said, these are hardly the only reasons for using open source software. For a sizable number of people, the payment-free model also means access to good and viable alternatives to proprietary software, which may be financially out of reach. I myself, as an undergrad student in the early 2000’s, resorted to using OpenOffice – not for ideological reasons, but rather because I couldn’t afford the MS Office Suite.

That said, projects need money to sustain the development process and, ultimately, the software they deliver free of charge to end-users. Much has already been written on the subject of sustainability of FOSS projects by people more knowledgeable than myself, so if you’re interested in the subject matter then search for FOSS financial sustainability. In a nutshell, keeping a FOSS project financially sustainable is very difficult; In the words of Andre Staltz, data shows “(…) that open source creators and maintainers are receiving low income” and “[t]his is not the first time [in history] hard-working honest people are giving their all, for unfair compensation”. The statistics vary vastly, but it is estimated that only a marginal fraction (approx 0.0001%) of people who ever, at any point in their life, used open source software have donated any amount of money to a project. It comes as no surprise then that even very large projects, such as Linux Mint, receive monthly donations that average $13K ($24k max / 7k min) from their user-base.

The question then arises, how can we do our share for the projects we work with? (by ‘we’ I mean both Pine Microsystems and PINE64 community). All of PINE64 hardware relies on community software and third-party projects,  but the one piece of hardware that is solely supported by third-party projects is the PinePhone. Since the PinePhone is an experimental project in its own right, we decided to also make it a testing ground for an idea we’ve had for some time now. From the very start of the PinePhone project we were clear that we wish to work with existing and well established Linux-on-phone projects. This decision stemmed from a firm belief in these projects competences and our ability to deliver a true FOSS phone. To this end, we have now made the decision to relay all revenue from PinePhone sales to the development community and third-party Linux-on-phone projects. In doing so we hope that, on the one hand, this will help Linux-on-phone projects grow and prosper, and on the other, entice developers to commit their time to PinePhone development.

Before proceeding let me just state the following: if this model works, and all parties involved are happy with it, then it is likely to be implemented for other similar devices in the future.

How it’ll work

Unlike many of PINE64 products that bring in no revenue (for instance, the Pinebook and Pinebook Pro) the PinePhone has an ‘in-built’ profit of ~$10 per unit. I provide the USD value as an approximation due to fluctuations of component prices and other market variables which there is no control over. It is exactly the $10 sum, per unit sold, that we wish to donate to the partner projects working on the PinePhone. Just to make it clear, the $149 will always be the final price for end-users and no-one will be asked donate money. As it were, we’re making the donation on your behalf.

We seek to make financial contributions in two ways. Please note, that only PinePhones sold in the PINE Store will be subject to the points below:

1) Via OS promotion campaigns (large).

2) Allowing users to indicate directly which project they wish the money to go to (small).

Lets start with the first of the two options. Once a partner project decides that an OS build for the PinePhone has been completed, and we too are satisfied with the OS image, then an entire PinePhone production run will be flashed with the OS build in question. We may also end up customizing the PinePhone for each campaign with project-specific phone’s covers, as well as include the project’s stickers, etc., so as to make each campaign truly feels OS-specific. Lets say, to make the math simple, we produce a batch of 1000 PinePhones for one of the projects. So, with 1000 units sold, the donation made to the project will amount to USD $10,000. Depending on the project size, its existing install-base of users, as well as general level of interest in the PinePhone, these batches may be significantly larger or smaller. Let me also assure you that we will ensure that the entire process, from start to finish, is both clear and transparent to the end-users making the purchase during the campaign period.

The second way in which we wish to contribute to partner projects is by giving you – the end-users – the option to indicate which Linux-on-phone project should receive the $10 from your PinePhone purchase in the PINE Store. Each partner project will be assigned a code that you’ll be asked to key in (if you so choose) when completing your PinePhone purchase. To make the process completely transparent, and so that there are no speculations about how the system works, we will likely list the help of community developers to build it. The source for the system will, subsequently, also be uploaded to github or gitlab for anyone to view, study and alter (if need be). But what happens with the $10 if no project is indicated at check-out? – the answer is that the money will go to a PINE64 community fund. This will allow us to help send community members to conferences, support community initiatives and activities, and much, much more. 

There is more: contributing to closing the digital gap

But wait! there is more. We are also making our contribution to closing the digital gap – a term used to describe the inequality of access to a computer, internet and technology of underprivileged individuals or groups. It may be inconceivable to many of you, but access to a computer, to secure and sophisticated software, as well as the Internet remains a privilege of less than half of humanity. And the number of children with regular access to a computer worldwide is just a measly 19%. While not as important as access to fresh water, food, shelter or electricity, access to a computer has a substantially positive effect on individuals and thus also the communities they inhabit. A recent UN report has outlined that providing school-age children with a computer correlated directly with improved literacy rates, access to further education, financial independence (particularly important in the case of girls and young women) and perhaps most importantly safety (in many less economically developed countries, children access the internet and do homework at internet cafes. Travel to-and-from the internet cafes, as well as the cafes themselves, frequently exposes children to potential danger).

Enter the Pinebook – an ideal laptop for distribution as an aid in closing the digital divide. It is inexpensive, sturdy and durable as well as simple in design, which effectively means that it can be repaired by anyone with limited resources. All that is needed to access the Pinebook’s internals is a Philips screwdriver, and in the event of a component failure spare parts can be had for a very small fee. Moreover, despite its low cost, the Pinebook has all the basic networking and connectivity one would require for basic tasks, allows for a wide array of software to run on it, has a very long battery-life as well as reaps all the benefits of running open source software.

How will this be achieved?

Our commitment to closing the digital gap will start with the PinePhone launch. There will be two types of covers available for the PinePhone in the PINE Store – a soft rubber cover (likely transparent) and a hard plastic one. The following refers to the soft covers sold in the PINE Store only. The final pricing for the cover isn’t set in stone yet, but I expect that it should be in the $10 range. All revenue from this soft cover will go to a only sole purpose: funding Pinebooks used in our initiative to help close the digital gap. The math is simple, but let me outline it anyways; 10 soft PinePhone covers sold in the PINE Store ‘buys’ one Pinebook for someone in need. You get your PinPhone cover and someone in need gets a Pinebook, what’s not to like?

How will you decide whom to send the Pinebooks to?

We intend to make this a community process. Details are still being worked out, but I envision having community members submit suggestions for people and places, charities and institutions, existing projects dealing with the digital divide, etc., that would either directly benefit from using Pinebooks or help with their distribution. In time there may be an advisory body consisting of PINE64 community members as well as notable people from the broader Linux community, whom will be tasked with weighing in on the proposals and put them to a vote. We’ll see how it goes. If you have any suggestions regarding this subject matter then please make sure to share your thoughts in the comments section. 

Lastly, if you are a developer or represent an existing education-focused project, and would like to tailor an OS build for the Pinebook then make sure to get in touch with me.

25 thoughts on “Its time to start giving back

  1. This is just AWESOME!!!
    Like anyone, i have certain limitations, but i will do what i can to help.
    Thank you Pine Peeps!

  2. These products keep getting pushed back.

    Giving: 2) Allowing users to indicate directly which project they wish the money to go to (small). But you have not listed any projects to consider before purchase.
    I’d like to submit a project idea.
    AN ACTUAL TECH BOOK
    One book for each of the 3 items sold:
    1) with details on the operating system from the first start up program through to the end.
    2) component information for all parts
    3) Any available information on attachments.
    4) AI programs.

    THE DIGITAL DIVIDE:
    I would like you to add a category for those who wish to vote NO on the subject. Creating the Internet my be one of our greatest achievements. Social media is one of our greatest shames. NO child needs a computer to learn. They need food, water, medicine, clothes, & a home to survive. How many would trade the computer for a meal.

    2nd they need paper, pencil, books, and a teacher to be educated. Many socialist countries would restrict, monitor, or even punish use of such technology, especially for women.

    1. Which products got pushed back? We haven’t even announced a date for the PinePhone release … so I am not sure I understand what you’re referring to.

      Regarding your comment concerning the digital divide: there is no point for me to argue with the what you wrote, since it literally misses the point entirely. Children in LEDCs are frequently required to do schoolwork – and, from what I am told by someone at ICRS, a significant portion of it – on a computer as well as to rely on external information sources (the latter relating more to older kids). So, at best, kids have to wait their turn to finish homework on the family computer (if there is one) or at the school, alternatively they can make a trip to an Internet Cafe which may expose them to danger. So, as you see, donating pencils and books – which is already done by large charities and NGOs – isn’t really the solution to all problems.

      Computer skills and access to a computer have been linked to: improved employment opportunities, financial independence of young women (strongly related to a woman’s ability to control her circumstances), economic growth of communities, access to free press and peer reviewed sources … just to name a few. There are plenty of UNESCO, ICRS, UN and other NGO reports on the subject.

  3. It seems to me that you are in a prime position to partner with the One Laptop Per Child organization. (https://one.laptop.org) Particularly, the PineTab would be a hardware upgrade for them (potentially upgrading both their XO tablet _and_ their XO laptop) at a lower price point, and RockPro64 could be an excellent classroom server. This, without necessarily the requirement to actually donate hardware, though that, too, would help them out.

    Also, I generally agree with Arthur’s comment, above, about more basic school supplies. I have made several trips on the sailing cargo vessel Kwai to the Kiribati line islands, and there is always a pallet or two of school books and other supplies for delivery.

    The OLPC project is reasonably well funded and already has existing contacts to make distribution of hardware, training, and also more basic supplies a reality.

  4. Wow!!! This is such a generous move! I really wish you to prove the quote under the headline (or strictly speaking, not to disprove it). Pine64 deserves donations not less than any Linux-phone software makers.

  5. I think this whole thing is a great idea. I’m completely sold on getting the Pinephone and one of the cases immediately!

    As a side note, I completely disagree with the sentiment from a couple previous comments. Paper and pencil are almost pointless in modern society where everything is done digitally. Having a few physical books is deemed also pointless if you have access to the internet. For example a quick google search of “public domain books” gives us multiple websites full of tens of thousands of books to read, and most publishers also offer digital versions of books alongside the physical copies. There are hundreds of websites dedicated to the pursuit of free education. Saying all of that is worthless because websites like Facebook exist is incredibly unfair to all the good the internet does.

    Additionally, I wonder if there is some confusion of terminology. Socialism is (according to wikipedia) a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole. I see absolutely nowhere in that statement how providing laptops to children could be a threat to them.

    Now if you’re referring to Authoritarian 3rd world countries; That is, countries that enforce strict obedience to authority, especially to the government, possibly at the expense of personal freedom, then I could see government censorship of such devices as being a problem.

  6. What an awesome and noble initiative. I love it. Why not apply the scheme to more of your products, or offer supporter versions at +10$.

    1. We likely will do so in the future. Lets see how it goes with the PinePhone and if all parties involved are happy with how it works.

      Also, thank you everyone for the positive feedback ! 🙂

  7. Howdy guys. I think this is an awesome idea and applaude your efforts.

    Please do be a little careful however, bot to give away too much too soon. I know that you guys make much less profit than many other computer manufacturers due to your very low price points.

    I guess what I am saying is, Id hate for some financial burden to fall Pine64 suddenly and hair the company disappear as a result due to not enpigh caah reserves on hand. 🙁 Just dont want to risk losing you guys, you provide an amazing service offering computers cheap enough for anyone, promote the use of Linux, and are creating privacy-respecting products that no one else is.

    Much love.

  8. Hello,

    As Linux user and (C, C++) developer (see my signature), I got some skills, graphical, computing vision, OpenGL (sorry Vulkan beginner only), Dear ImGui (imediate graphical mode), SDL2, ffmpeg.

    e.g. I could help you to provide some applications (build, fix bugs and some other kind of actions).

    Last but not least, I’m located in Europa, France, and I’d like to learn more about what I can expect : e.g. is it possible to buy -even experimental – phone, to help and so on.

    If you are interested, feel free to contact me to define how I could help you. FYI, some students may participate too (e.g. they could complete some simple task, or something similar)

    Thanks a lot and the best for your great project !


    qɔᴉɹə

    OOoLight and OOo4Kids author
    EducOOo non profit association (1901 french law) : http://www.educoo.org (OpenOffice.org fork)

    https://framagit.org/ericb/miniDart (Handball performance software)

    https://github.com/ebachard (various software)

  9. The Pine philosophy and these donate thoughts have fundamentally changed my personal environment variabels.
    Chapeau. Thank you.

  10. What a great initiative.
    I’m following your work with a lot of interest from the time I heard of Pine64 and with this announcement, I’m even more seduced.
    Awesome.
    I’m working for a small association dealing with the digital gap in France (because it does exist even in western countries), https://defis.info .
    There are plenty of associations who could make a good deal of your generosity
    One Laptop Per Child organization
    http://sosenfants.com/
    Red Cross
    https://www.taramana.org/
    http://association-aide.org/

    I’m not developer of it but I would recommend you to contact https://primtux.fr/ , one of the best educational linux distribution I know.

    Thank you again for this cheering up announcement.
    Best regards,
    Thatoo

    1. Thank you so much for the feedback and all the links. I’ll keep you in mind when we start the panel – I assume you’d be ok with me reaching out?

      Keep up the great work.

  11. The problem with “fixing” the digital divide with FOSS, especially when it comes to children and their homework, is the reliance on Microsoft-suite software for homework assignments, and then on top of that for PINE’s case, the reliance of x86 for that. It’s a wonderful gesture, but at the same time, I don’t think it will quite have the impact you dream of.

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