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The Shuttleworth Foundation


South African entrepreneur, Mark Shuttleworth, established the Shuttleworth Foundation in October 2001 with the belief that education is the key to unlocking the creative and intellectual potential of the South African youth, allowing them to live the dream that "anything is possible."

With a passion for social development and education, the foundations main goal is to improve the quality of education in South Africa. The foundation invests in projects which offer unique and innovative, albeit high-risk, solutions to educational challenges in an African society, focussing on the areas of Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship and Maths (STEM) in education and open source software.

Project Background

Author: Prof. Kader Asmal The Shuttleworth Foundation

"The steps we take today, will determine the future prosperity of our country, which ultimately belongs to our young people and the future generations that will follow. We cannot afford to let them down."

It is with this in mind that South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth established the Shuttleworth Foundation in October 2001 with the specific aim to improve the quality of education in South Africa. Mark is a firm believer that education is the key to unlocking the creative and intellectual potential of the South African youth, allowing them to live the dream that "anything is possible."

The Shuttleworth Foundation, however, approaches it's commitment to education with a number of principals it believes are imperative in tackling the issues and challenges facing a developing country such as South Africa. Primary to this is a belief that young people who are well-trained in the fields of science, maths, technology and entrepreneurship hold the key to unlocking the country and the continent's potential - allowing the region to take its rightful place alongside the developed nations of the world.

To further the uptake of technology in South Africa, the Shuttleworth Foundation propagates the use of open source software. The term "open source" refers to computer software that has been built by a global community of volunteers who make the source code freely available, as opposed to the more widely known style of proprietary development by a single company. This software is usually available on-line at no cost to the user.

Open source software provides users with freedom not obtainable from proprietary software - this includes the freedom to obtain, to modify and to distribute the software. Therefore, the Shuttleworth Foundation believes that the use of open source software will provide effective and economical access to information and communication technology. The Foundation thus aims to facilitate, support and fund initiatives on a corporate, private and government level that will lead to the awareness, uptake and growth of open source in South Africa.

Open source was a key component in the phenomenal success of Mark's Internet security company, Thawte, which he sold to Verisign in 1999. During his university days, Mark recognised the potential of the then emerging technology and decided on open source software as the technology standard for his future business. Mark stuck to his vision, and all of the key technology responsible for the smooth operation and growth of Thawte was developed using open source software: all back-end servers ran Linux, web-pages were served using Apache (an open source webserver), e-mail was processed using Exim and Qmail (open source mail transfer agents), data was stored in MySQL (an open source database), and web logic was developed using Python (an open source scripting language). Each one of these software components are all freely downloadable off the Internet - and because of their open source code nature, Mark could modify and adjust the software to suit his exact needs. Mark's situation is not unique, open source can provide anyone who is serious about finding a solution to their IT problems with the tools to do just that.

Mark recognises that open source contributed greatly to his success and strongly believes that it can bring about similar levels of success in many other environments. He is serious about proving this, so serious in fact, that the Shuttleworth Foundation has a mandate to promote and support open source software in South Africa!

One of the major challenges that the Foundation faces is creating awareness of the functionality, flexibility and accessibility of open source. Up to now it would appear that an awareness of open source has been limited to sophisticated technology users. The Foundation aims to bring open source to learners from all levels of society - not only to make them aware of its existence, but also how this revolutionary, boundless technology can be used in software development and training.

The success of any great open source project can be directly attributed to the formation of a supportive community around that particular project. While the contribution of each individual member may be small, they have an extraordinary impact when combined, with an entire community and more benefiting from that collaborative effort. This may be an unusual kind of open source project, but we would encourage you to add to this material and make it the point of reference for GNU/Linux education. It belongs to the open source community, use it, share it and above all enjoy it.

Thanks from Mark Shuttleworth

Simone, Riaan, Hamish and Matthew your body of work will serve as a touchstone for future free training material projects. Thank you for all the long hours of work and sacrifice.

Mark Shuttleworth, Founder, The Shuttleworth Foundation