DINAcon Awards Nominee

FUSS – Free Upgrade for a digitally Sustainable School

Project Start: 01. September 2005

Project Category: #3 Best Practice

Provincia Autonoma di Bolzano - Alto Adige | Autonome Provinz Bozen - Südtirol


FUSS (Free Upgrade for a digitally Sustainable School) has a dual nature: it is a digital sustainability project for schools and at the same time a free software product (Debian GNU/Linux operating system and applications) for a 360-degree management of a school network.
FUSS was founded in 2005 and is a unique experience in Europe for its organization and structure. The project has led to the migration to free software of computer tools used in the teaching of all schools in Italian language of South Tyrol: to date 1,800 teachers and 16,000 students use it; it is installed on 4,000 desktops and 60 servers in about 80 schools in the Autonomous Province of Bolzano). FUSS is coordinated and financed by the Italian Education and Training Department of the Autonomous Province of Bolzano and the current technological partner that collaborates in the implementation and consultancy is the Italian company Truelite Srl.
The choice to use free software in schools is first of all, beyond economic or technical reasons, ethical and political. In addition to having efficient, stable and secure software, the objective is to pursue the values of freedom and knowledge sharing in teaching.
FUSS is a cutting-edge project on the national territory and has made it possible to make teaching digitally sustainable thanks to four fundamental objectives: the use of free software, the use of open formats, the creation of free content, thus laying the foundations for the fourth objective whose achievement should be guaranteed by each school by definition: free access to knowledge. The philosophy behind free software, that of free access to information and sharing of knowledge, is naturally suited to the educational task of every school.
FUSS supports the Public Money - Public Code initiative (https://publiccode.eu/) which in italy is ratified by Article 69 of the Digital Administration Code.
The source code of FUSS is free, public and transparent and can be consulted on https://work.fuss.bz.it/projects while the documentation is accessible from the main site https://fuss.bz.it

Project Business Case

The introduction of Free Software in all Italian language schools of the Autonomous Province of Bozen-Bolzano has allowed to cut the current expenses that in the past (before 2005) were allocated to the purchase of Microsoft licenses and other proprietary software for amounts ranging between € 150,000 and € 300,000 per year.
These savings have been invested in a small part (about 1/10) in the improvement and adaptation of existing Free Software (GNU/Linux operating system, utilities and educational applications included in FUSS). The rest of the savings (9/10) were invested in other educational projects (e.g. multilingualism) for all schools in South Tyrol.
The investment of public money by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano with the publication of the free software product benefits the community, institutions, schools, citizens and companies that want to reuse and readjust FUSS to their needs in line with Article 69 of the Digital Administration Code.
The acquisition of Free Software allows to keep on the national territory the investments of the Italian PA, unlike what happens with the purchase of proprietary software licenses owned by multinational companies, for which it has been calculated that about 86% of the expensive annual fees leave the territory (Carlo Daffara, SFScon 2012, https://www.sfscon.it/talks/smart-business/).
Considering the investment already made by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano to create a software distribution for schools and the immediate and free availability of the same for any school in the national territory and abroad, it is estimated that if all Italian schools adopt FUSS instead of Windows, the annual savings in terms of licenses would be around 50 million euros of public money.

Project Importance

FUSS and similar projects in the world (e.g. the public schools in Estremadura, Spain or the Penn Manor School District, Lancaster, PA (USA) just to cite a few) show the importance of having a sustainable digitalization in education.
The use of Free Software makes it possible for students and teachers to participate directly in its development, not only by writing code, but especially in terms of suggestions on how it works, producing documentation, translating, realizing content and more. All this in a school model seen as a community in which all its components, teachers and students, actively participate in the process of building knowledge and in the development of the project itself.
The use of Linux and free software is not and should not be limited to classrooms only. It is important to inform parents about how their children work with information technology at school and how they can use the same tools at home at no extra cost to their families. To this end, the "Open & Linux Desk" has been set up, managed by a group of volunteers from the Linux User Group of Bolzano and the Südtirol-Alto Adige Digital Sustainability Group with the patronage of public bodies and schools in the area. Twice a month in the cities of Bolzano, Merano and Brunico, a group of volunteers is available for the free installation of Linux on PCs and laptops of teachers, students or citizens in general who request it. More info here: https://www.fuss.bz.it/open-linux-desk.

Project Impact

If this project stops its development and ceases to exist, around 80 schools in Italy would stop working in a digitally sustainable way (17.000+ students, 1800+ teachers) and moreover this would stop our contribution to a circular economy. Moving towards proprietary software (just operating system + office suite) would cost more than 200.000 €/year in user licenses.

Project Facts

License: OSI/FSD-approved free software license

Maturity: We are well established and many people are using it

Number of Contributors: 100

Number of Commits: 1600