Seventeen-year-old Eduardo Mayorga Téllez defines himself as an adolescent who is open to exploring new things. He remembers as though it were yesterday that when he was eight he asked to borrow his uncle’s computer. At the time he only wanted to play computer games, but his desire and curiosity to discover the world increased as he grew up.
"I remember that someone came to repair my computer and I asked him what operating system he used. He told me it was Linux, so I decided to give it a try,” Eduardo explains. Nobody would have imagined that this first encounter with free technology would ultimately lead to him becoming Nicaragua’s youngest Free Software Ambassador and being involved in various communities, including the Fedora Project.
In his role as ambassador, Eduardo has participated in many events, conferences and exchanges with the free software community both inside and outside of the country. In one of many experiences, he learned about OpenStreetMap, an initiative that allows the citizenry to create its own maps in a collaborative way.
He joined that particular community two years ago, motivated by the ease of sharing geographical information. He started by mapping the alleyways in his neighbourhood (Villa Libertad) and then participated in a “mapping festival”, joining the initiative to create a map of Managua buses. More recently he travelled to the city of Bluefields to collaborate in the creation of its first map.
Eduardo is most passionate about collaborating and sharing in the areas of technology, programming and electronics. “I made a bridge between Fedora and OpenStreetMap,” Eduardo explains, “because Fedora is a distribution of pieces of free software. So I packaged together and updated various softwares that have to do with geographic information systems."
Free software promotes human rights
Free software continues expanding in the world and people are realizing that in practice leaving things open and sharing knowledge allows innovation. Examples of this are the free communities like Wikipedia, OpenStreetMap and Linux.
The OpenStreetMap initiative puts technology in people’s reach, vindicating their right to take advantage of it. “We are putting democracy in action with maps,” Eduardo stresses, “and getting increasing numbers of people to participate. I am really convinced that human knowledge must be available for everyone. Free software promotes human rights because at the end of the day citizens create knowledge that they then share.”
Although technology is not very accessible in Nicaragua, Eduardo considers that the problem is not accessibility, but rather a cultural problem related to what is done with that technology. “I’m sure that having greater access to technology won’t mean we exploit it better,” he says. “What needs to be done is to build awareness of what we can do with it."
In that sense, he is committed to returning some of the considerable amount of knowledge he has learned from the free software community. "I have many friends that have the whole scope, but don’t use it to the full; and I know others who don’t have it, but develop that potential. I share with those people what they can do with free software.”
A life project
Behind all of the successes Eduardo has achieved so early in life are the love and support of his family. “My family has supported me a lot,” he explains, “because they know this is something I like to do, even though I haven’t had abundant economic resources to have all the devices. But that hasn’t been an obstacle because the community gives you access to the technological tools.”
This altruistic and enterprising young man sees himself having a professional career when he is 30, researching and mapping other cities. Although he is currently in the first year of an electronics degree at the National Engineering University (UNI), Eduardo’s dream is to study abroad and dedicate himself to scientific research. “My vocation is teaching,” he says. “Those are the things that fill you with a lot of satisfaction. I want to do science, not earn a lot of money.”
Eduardo is a multifaceted young man. In addition to a passion for technology, he likes playing tennis, took violin classes and likes rock music. For now, he wants to concentrate on geographic information systems, because he considers that people can use that information to take decisions, contribute to the generation of knowledge and promote collaboration to resolve the problems affecting them. In other words, it amounts to sowing a seed that will keep on growing.
Eduardo concludes by saying he is convinced that on the way to achieving his goals he is going to be influenced by others and will also have an impact on other people, because technology is there to simplify people’s lives.