Small Technology Foundation

About

We’re a tiny and independent two-person not-for-profit based in Ireland. We advocate for and build small technology to protect personhood and democracy in the digital network age.

Read on to learn more about the foundation and small technology.

The foundation

Laura, Osky, and Aral

We’re Laura Kalbag and Aral Balkan (and Oskar the huskamute). We live and work in Cork, Ireland.

Since 2014, we’ve been advocating for regulation of surveillance capitalism, investment in ethical alternatives, and carrying out research and development on ethical alternatives.

After leaving the UK and moving to Ireland, we set up the Small Technology Foundation with the mission to evolve the Internet so each one of us can own and control our own place on it.

We strive to follow the principles of Small Technology in our work.

We don’t take money from surveillance capitalists and we exist thanks to the support of individuals like you.

History

Here is a short timeline of important events in our history.

Small Technology

Small Technology are everyday tools for everyday people designed to increase human welfare, not corporate profits.

Small Tech is…

Personal

Small Technology are everyday tools for everyday people. They are not tools for startups or enterprises.

Easy to use

Personal technology are everyday things that people use to improve the quality of their lives. As such, in addition to being functional, secure, and reliable, they must be convenient, easy to use, and inclusive. If possible, we should aim to make them delightful.

Related aspects: inclusive

Non-colonial

Small technology is made by humans for humans. They are not built by designers and developers for users. They are not built by Western companies for people in African countries. If our tools specifically target a certain demographic, we must ensure that our development teams reflect that demographic. If not, we must ensure people from a different demographic can take what we make and specialise it for their needs.

Related aspects: share alike, non-commercial, interoperable

Private by default

A tool respects your privacy only if it is private by default. Privacy is not an option. You do not opt into it. Privacy is the right to choose what you keep to yourself and what you share with others. “Private” (i.e., for you alone) is the default state of small technologies. From there, you can always choose who else you want to share things with.

Related aspects: zero knowledge, peer to peer

Zero knowledge

Zero-knowledge tools have no knowledge of your data. They may store your data, but the people who make or host the tools cannot access your data if they wanted to.

Examples of zero-knowledge designs are end-to-end encrypted systems where only you hold the secret key, and peer-to-peer systems where the data never touches the devices of the app maker or service provider (including combinations of end-to-end encrypted and peer-to-peer systems).

Related aspects: private by default, peer to peer

Peer to peer

Peer-to-peer systems enable people to connect directly with one and another without a person (or more likely a corporation or a government) in the middle. They are the opposite of client/server systems, which are centralised (the servers are the centres).

On peer to peer systems, your data – and the algorithms used to analyze and make use of your data – stay on devices that you own and control. You do not have to beg some corporation to not abuse your data because they don’t have it to begin with.

Related aspects: zero knowledge, private by default

Share alike

Most people’s eyes cloud over when technology licenses are mentioned but they’re crucial to protecting your freedom.

Small Technology is licensed under Copyleft licenses. Copyleft licenses stipulate that if you benefit from technology that has been put into the commons, you must share back (“share alike”) any improvements, changes, or additions you make. If you think about it, it’s only fair: if you take from the commons, you should give back to the commons. That’s how we cultivate a healthy commons.

Related aspects: interoperable, non-colonial, non-commercial

Interoperable

Interoperable systems can talk to one another using well-established protocols. They’re the opposite of silos. Interoperability ensures that different groups can take a technology and evolve it in ways that fit their needs while still staying compatible with other tools that implement the same protocols. Interoperability, coupled with share alike licensing, helps us to distribute power more equally as rich corporations cannot “embrace and extend” commons technology, thereby creating new silos.

Interoperability also means we don’t have to resort to colonialism in design: we can design for ourselves and support other groups who design for themselves while allowing all of us to communicate with each other within the same global network.

Related aspects: share alike, non-colonial

Non-commercial

The primary purpose for Small Technology is not to make a profit but to increase human welfare. As such, they are built by not-for-profit organisations. Eventually, we hope that small technologies will be recognised for their contribution to the common good and therefore supported from the commons (e.g., from our taxes). In the interim, some methods for monetising Small Technology include:

Equity-based / Venture Capital investment is incompatible with Small Technology as the success criterion is the sale of the organisation (either to a larger organisation or to the public at large via an IPO). Small Technology is not about startups (temporary companies designed to either fail fast or grow exponentially and get sold), it’s about stayups (sustainable organisations that contribute to the common good).

Related aspects: non-colonial, share alike, interoperable

Inclusive

Being inclusive in technology is ensuring people have equal rights and access to the tools we build and the communities who build them, with a particular focus on including people from traditionally marginalised groups. Accessibility is the degree to which technology is usable by as many people as possible, especially disabled people

Small Technology is inclusive and accessible.

With inclusive design, we must be careful not to assume we know what’s best for others, despite us having differing needs. Doing so often results in colonial design, creating patronising and incorrect solutions.

Related aspects: easy to use, non-colonial