Monday, November 14, 2005

Open Source Software in the Developing World

Open Source Software (OSS) is a free alternative to expensive Microsoft products. The Linux (pronounced "lie-neks") operating system is the most popular OSS alternative to Microsoft Windows. OpenOffice is a free alternative to Microsoft Office.

In the developing world, cost is paramount. In this 2004 article, License fees and GDP per capita: The case for open Source in developing countries, the author computes that the cost of Microsoft Windows XP with Office is

over 2.5 months of GDP/capita in South Africa and over 16 months of GDP/capita in Vietnam. This is the equivalent of charging a single–user licence fee in the U.S. of US$7,541 and US$48,011 respectively, which is clearly unaffordable. Moreover, no likely discount would significantly reduce this cost, and in any case the simple fact that a single vendor controls any single proprietary software application means that there can never be a guarantee that any discount offered is intended to be sustained for the long term, rather than as a temporary measure used to tempt consumers into a lock–in situation at which point in time the discount can be reduced.

As a result, countries such as South Africa, India, Brazil, and China are adopting Open Source Software in their schools and government offices. (In addition to piracy). This 2005 article, Open source: Developing markets and anti-Americanism, discusses how Linux is being adapted to many different languages for these uses.

Microsoft has gone so far as to threaten legal action against nations using OSS. This article makes it clear that such threats are not appreciated abroad. Microsoft has reportedly funded a company called SCO in its ongoing lawsuits against Linux.

1 comment:

Helen said...

Cheers to the popularization of Linux! Thanks for this post.