Opinion: The Importance of Free Software for Learning in Latin America

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Free software should be promoted in educational institutions in Latin America for a fairer education.

Computer's room

One of the biggest scourges for contemporary students is the price of the software. Photo: Unsplash

LatinAmerican Post| Juan Manuel Londoño

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Leer en español: Opinión: La importancia del software libre para el aprendizaje en Latinoamérica

One of the biggest scourges for contemporary students is the price of the software. Whether it's the Adobe Suite or Microsoft Office, paying an annual subscription to use one or more programs is impossible for a significant number of students, especially in Latin America. In a region where access to education and school supplies are too expensive, paying for a program is the last thing on students' minds.

To illustrate, the price for a monthly subscription to Adobe Suite, which contains programs used by design professionals, artists, communicators, and all types of creative professionals, is $ 19.9. The minimum wage in Colombia, at the close of this edition is one million pesos, or 250 dollars (approximately). 8% of a salary to have access to a necessary tool for learning.

As a result of these prices, low-income students are left behind in learning or have to resort to hacking to fulfill their duties. These are situations that ideally could be avoided with the use of free software

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What is free software?

The term free software designates software that complies with the "four fundamental freedoms" devised by programmer and activist Richard M. Stallman in 1986.

For the Free Software Europe Foundation, the four freedoms are:

Freedom of use: Free Software can be used for any purpose and is free of restrictions such as license expiration.

Freedom to study: Free Software and its code can be studied by anyone, without nondisclosure agreements or alike.

Freedom to share: Free Software can be shared and copied at no cost.

Freedom to improve: Free Software can be modified by anyone, and improvements can be shared publicly.

An example of free software is the GIMP program, a digital image editing program, which is basically a completely free alternative to Photoshop.

Why is it important to promote the use of Free Software in universities and schools?

Free Software has several advantages. First of all, it is completely free to purchase and share. This means a considerable saving of money, not only for students, but for institutions. A public school can have access to exactly the same program as a prestigious private school.

Additionally, this helps students not have to downloaded illegally, which consequently prevents malware and virus attacks on their products.

Last and perhaps most important, Free Software promotes the fundamental idea that knowledge should be in the hands of everyone, not just those who can afford it. Any educational institution is obliged to promote the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.