Freedom Toasters are popping up all over the world, from Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia to India, Canada and beyond.
Breadbin Interactive's Freedom Toaster is a convergence of third-world problems and first-world technologies. The Toasters are preloaded with whatever digital content is offered, and allow anyone to bring along a disk, tap a few buttons on the touch screen and burn their choice of content onto a CD, DVD or flash drive.
The Toasters are simple to use free-standing units, containing Tactile Technologies' ELO TouchSystems monitors which are now being avidly patronised and widely installed locally.
The Shuttleworth Foundation began the Digital Content Distribution Initiative in an attempt to promote open source software, including Ubuntu. The Foundation initiated development and production of the original Toasters, with a view to carrying all open source software as well as other selected free content.
South Africa's expensive bandwidth makes it prohibitive for the very people who would draw the most benefit from Ubuntu, to get their hands on it – like most operating systems, a comprehensive download can run to 700Mb. Now the operating platform can be acquired from a Toaster, the perfect holdall dispenser solution.
Utilising Tactile Technologies' Elo TouchSystems, the Toasters are rugged and robust and have the kind of functionality which, according to Brett Simpson of Breadbin Interactive, "work anywhere, all the time and are practically glitch free".
The Toasters are fixed to the floor so they are vandal proof and are fitted with the best of the best in peripheral hardware which, when combined with the preferred open source software, makes them into low-maintenance and trouble-free work horses. All they need is a conventional power supply.
A smaller countertop kiosk version of the Toaster will be rolled out shortly, which Simpson says will have all the same features and functionalities as the bigger version but, being smaller, will be significantly more versatile. It will be suitable for areas where space is at a premium, such as post offices and the like.
Ironically one of the most successful Toasters is situated in Canada, a country without the problems the Toaster was originally designed to address.
Analysis indicates that the popularity of a Toaster seems to be directly related to what software and media it dispenses, of which there is more and more every day.
Freedom Toasters can now be found on most of South Africa's university campuses; UNISA alone have 30 dedicated units, with another 35 on order.
Consequently, students now have the choice of whether or not to pay for hard
copies of their course materials, download them from the Internet, or pop them out of the nearest Toaster. This alone has decreased paper consumption and carbon footprint considerably, now that only a fraction of the previous amount of material needs to be printed and physically posted to students.