Wednesday, July 12, 2006

OSS and Developing Countries

Free software is a matter of freedom, not price. In developing countries Open Source Software(OSS) has not been as popular as it should have been. There have been many factors contributing to this, one major factor being that there have not been much or any enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights(IPR). Software piracy is epidemic in most developing countries. Starting from the individual home users to the government bodies. There is not much respect to any copyright laws. Mostly software is taken for granted. This is not even taken into consideration while making policies. Mostly the only costs involved are the cost of hardware. It is very rarely that cost of software is ever taken into consideration.

One other factor which contributes to this that; it is some times believed that anything “Free” can't be good. A lot of times OSS or free software is looked down by some people. This happens mostly when people are not very aware of the technology and when people who make decisions are not practically involved in the industry. A lot of times, the people who are selected to make decisions in the developing countries are long term bosses who have been sitting behind a desk just signing documents or they are fresh and green graduates, who lack any experience other then school assignments and projects.

So, why go for free and open source when its all free anyway? Well, nothing is free! (almost). To start with we all know that even though its free software a lot of times we need to pay for support; if we want it. This is true in any case. Be it Free and OSS or commercial software. Also there is consultation costs. This is true when it comes to large projects. There are many advantages we get when we move to OSS platforms and to Free software. Example the flexibilities we get over the software; if we are to customize or even to localize. In other words there is more control over systems when you move to GPL-style projects. This is a very wide subject to be discusses and it all depends on where it is applied. There is no one general answer to these kinds of questions.

I think there is a lot of advantages that I see if an organization migrates to Free and Open platforms. Example if an organization were to adopt Linux on an enterprise-wide scale, they would have advantages like more security, keep malware and viruses at bay. It would also cut down on the IT budget on the long run. This is very much acceptable thing now, but why does these migrations never happen? I think one reason is the lack of support and knowhow. Also FUD (fear uncertainty and doubt) is the other factor. While we know that these migrations and adaptations will be far better, we still fear them. For some if not most administrators; its hard to think of a world without Microsoft. They are too used to the wizards and the next, next finish methods. Even if this meant compromising performance, security and even cost.

Lately this has started to change. OSS and Free platforms has not only been started to get popular with developing nations but also the developed countries like Germany and Hong Kong. Recently Indian government has been adopting Linux into the government operations along with countries like China.

Anyway I think its a good factor for the governments to consider the costs which will be involved if they have to pay for the licenses and the upgrade costs. Which are not considered now. Its also a very sad fact that the people who are to enforce laws are also the people who break them. Just because these intellectual propitiates are software and developed by other countries does not mean they should be illegally used, stolen or sold. But having said that I know this is something that can never be stopped in a near future. Piracy is here to stay for a while. I think it will take a few years and a lot of mistakes for the developing countries to realize the reasons for choosing GPL-style projects for solutions. The next major factor which will only bring this change is people. As of now man power is something that we lack, people who are experienced and have the skills and knowledge to adopt and deploy projects successfully. Till then its just an idea and a dream for these islands where I live.


zerogeek said...

hmmm impressive

M said...

Tell that to the e-Govt we are about to have. It will use the MS .NET framework. Perhaps that's because we are still a Least Developed Country and not a Developing Country. :)

I find the wizards of MS software as easy as the cryptic configurations in the OSS. Besides, both require me to RTFM. Only difference is that I have more control over the configuration in OSS.

Now going back to the .NET framework. This means MS Windows running on systems all over the network. Good news for hackers. Bad news for government security. Hmmm. Why complain? :)

fullmetalashaman said...

Very well written. I hope that you will continue to write more articles like these

primary0 said...

the REAL deal is that for us in the undeveloped countries:

free software and open source software and normal commercial software are nearly the same because we do not have any copyright laws. basically all software is free software for us.

even "good" open source means paying some license or support fee, and not all good open source projects are totally free. most of the time, having the source available doesnt do much except occupying disk space.

commercial software that comes with all its tech support goodness costs the same as the free software with no support (admin/developer cost).