[Community] Making a “fair” OpenPhoenux?

Boudewijn wankelwankel at yahoo.com
Tue Apr 9 12:51:18 CEST 2013

On 9-4-2013 11:21, Dr. H. Nikolaus Schaller wrote:
> Am 08.04.2013 um 10:12 schrieb Sebastian Beschke:
>> as Nikolaus recently asked for visions regarding future incarnations of
>> OpenPhoenux, I would like to bring up the topic of a fair, sustainable
>> and transparent supply chain.
Thank you for doing so!
>> It’s a topic that is gaining momentum at
>> the moment,
And it should have years ago, so better now than later.
>> Let me briefly motivate: As many of you may know, most electronic
>> products available today are produced under horrifying working
>> conditions. (...) As supply chains in
>> IT are multi-tiered and extremely complex, it is very hard even for
>> device makers to be certain what exactly is in their devices in terms of
>> fairness.
As Nikolaus confirms (unsurprisingly, as you can imagine) :-(
>> I don’t think any consumer really wants to buy this sort of
>> devices, and that we should push towards making the process more fair
>> and transparent.
And just START anywhere, I think.
>> I have to admit that I haven’t been involved with OpenPhoenux so far, so
>> I don’t know where exactly the project stands on these issues, and I’d
>> be glad to learn about it. The GTA-04 Facts and Reasons page [4] states
>> that the board is made “in Germany under proper working conditions”,
>> which I think is a commendable start.
>> I’m interested to know how the community – and Golden Delicious – feel
>> about working further on these issues. This could start with making the
For my part: thank you for bringing it up. These issues are important to 
me in most goods I buy or use, but as you say and Nikolaus explains: 
there's not enough information and actually, hardly any option. I felt 
the same as you write about mentioning "proper working conditions" as a 
product property.

> Yes, I really appreciate these efforts. But to be honest, I don't see how we
> (OpenPhoenux) can achieve anything significant in this direction.
I think the key word is "significant". I know that in Germany, for 
example, all things ecological (food/clothing) and renewable 
(food/clothing/energy) are much more developed right now than in the 
Netherlands. I don't know how that was ten years ago. In the Netherlands 
though, ecological food has managed to stay off the main stream for at 
least twenty years before the turning of the century. Yes, for those 
with enough time and money there was a limited choice, but for most 
consumers it was some kind of laughing stock, if they knew about it at all.

Nowadays all major super market chains have at least the basics in 
ecological and/or fair trade. Many clothing stores sell products of 
ecological/fair trade cotton and other (renewable) fabrics. The price 
difference is still there in many cases, but only if comparing to the 
value-line of no-name products.
> So I doubt that we as a small community project can do it better. The reason
> is that we have no "buying power" to request more transparency from our
> suppliers.
I think we can start with mentioning the fact that we care to know, but 
are not yet able to find out. It at least shows commitment to this area. 
The mention of "Made in Germany" used to say something about quality (it 
still does, of course ;-) ), but then people may read "under proper 
working conditions" and think 'yes, of course', without taking the hint 
that that is not the case with those other phones. Adding that we do not 
yet have insight in our supply line shows it is not by coincidence that 
we care about proper working conditions.
> They do not value us as a signifiant customer and before they invest into finding
> out (or even improving their own supply chain),
It's an important difference indeed! The realization that even the 
investment in finding out is too high...
> And usually we don't have much choice. There is only a single source
> e.g. for TI OMAP, for a Micron PoP Memory chip, for an OPTION UMTS module.
And they buy it (maybe indirect) from the manufacturer, who in turn may 
have several plants with different working conditions, depending on 
where the plant is situated.
I have some more emails in this general "direction" to send, so if it 
doesn't fall off my plate, I'll try finding an email address and send 
emails to TI, Micron, Option and maybe some others to ask if our chips 
are always from the same plant and if they can give any information 
about it. We might have a checklist for the major components: "sources 
available y/n", "documentation available y/n", "supply line transparent 
y/n", "supply line approved y/n", "'fair'-ly manufactured y/n" and 
probably some more ...

My bank (ASN) has a strict rulebook about which characteristics a 
company must have (or must try to obtain) before they will invest in it, 
and make those choices traceable and transparent. We are not there yet 
and may never be, but it is a step in the direction.

> And we only have their declaration that the components conform to ROHS.
Because no one asks for more, and no one starts asking because it's not 
available. I'm not sure if it was posted on this list, but I read about 
this government spending on workstations in Scandinavia where the 
project actually was given to Lenovo for their "fair" line of products. 
If I recall correctly, that line of products was started just for that 

Now a government has a bit of a magnitude larger buying power than all 
of us combined, but the stamp/certification is developed for those 
products, and the underlying supply chains must confirm to it. They 
might as well put the stamp on all components that comply. By just 
starting by stating what we have, we might shove the bell shape of 
normal distribution a bit in the right direction ;-)
> Although I may ask them where they get their solder paste from, and they probably
> can only name a distributor, I don't expect to be able to find out from which
> mine the tin is really coming from and under which conditions it is produced.
> To really find out this needs a project and some travelling, social engineering
> doing interviews etc., i.e. quite a lot of time and money.
> Another point to consider is the pure number of components. We have approx.
> 250 components from at least 50 different brands. Who is willing to do the work
> to research and track that initially and in the future?
The odds are, as usual, against us :-( Maybe once we start, some 
information trickles in via social media? I have some contacts in 
South-East Asia, and once we find out some of our components are from 
that region, maybe I can try find out more.
>> supply chain transparent, as has been done by Nager-IT for their
>> partially-fair computer mouse [5]. (I could not find any information
>> about this on the wiki, so if there is any, please kindly point me to it!)
>> The next step would be making efforts to source more components and
>> resources from “fair” sources (meaning good and safe working conditions,
>> no child labour, adherence to standards of the International Labour
>> Organisation).
> There are simply no alternatives to choose from that still fit from the dimensions
> into the case of a smart phone...
That's why it's a "next step" ;-)
>> At FIfF (a German NGO), we have a working group on “fair computers” [6],
>> and one thing we are looking towards is connecting with open hardware
>> projects such as OpenPhoenux. If there is some interest in this topic in
>> the community, I think we could contribute at least some knowledge and
>> contacts. As such, I am looking forward to further discussions with you.
> The key question will be how much a "fair" OpenPhoenux increases the
> cost for such devices. And how much this can be compensated by higher
> demand by being "fair".
I think that the proposal at first is knowledge transfer. Even if our 
components are not "fair", part of "open" is then acknowledging it is not.
> It may turn out like with Android and iOS that 99,9% of the world population
> will think those are already "open" enough and buy the cheapest variant they
> can get their hands on.
For an important part, that is because for that 99.9% "openness" was 
never on the agenda in the first place. The first sign of lack of 
openness is inconvenience, but even that is only visible after 
buying-time convenience wears off. The first sign of lack of "fairness" 
is real human suffering. Many more than 0.1% of the population cares 
about poor people suffering.
If we (not only OpenPhoenix, but broader) could only make the (lack of) 
suffering visible at buying-time, it is easier for consumers to at least 
question the lack of that information on other products.

Well, eh... that's it for now ;-)

Best regards,


CC: openmoko-community; sorry for forking and sorry if you got it 
duplicate, but maybe there's some interest in the subject there as well...

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