Why developing countries need to use and create Free Software

IDLELO

 

First African Conference on the Digital Commons

Cape Town,  January 2004

 

Rishab Aiyer Ghosh
rishab@dxm.org

 

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

The TCO bogeyman?

Software Total Cost of Ownership:

l    Licence fees

l    Associated hardware costs

l    Associated software costs

l    Maintenance

l    Integration

l    Support

l    Training

The TCO bogeyman?

l    Licence fees

l    Associated hardware costs

l    Associated software costs

l    Maintenance

l    Integration

l    Support

l    Training

The TCO bogeyman?

l    Licence fees: 5-10% (proprietary)

l    Associated hardware costs

l    Associated software costs

l    Maintenance

l    Integration

l    Support

l    Training

The TCO bogeyman?

l    Licence fees: 5-10% (proprietary)

l    Associated hardware costs

l    Associated software costs

l    Maintenance

l    Integration

l    Support

l    Training

The TCO bogeyman!

Software Total Cost of Ownership:

l    The share of licence fees in TCO is small…
…when the share of labour costs is high (as in the countries or social domains where TCO studies are normally conducted)

 

The TCO bogeyman!

Software Total Cost of Ownership:

l    The share of licence fees in TCO is small…
…when the share of labour costs is high (as in the countries or social domains where TCO studies are normally conducted)

l    If labour costs (average incomes) are low, their share in TCO is lower, with the result that the share of licence fees is considerably higher

 

Licence costs seem low...*

Licensing Cost of Windows XP + Office (USA):

    $560**

 

 

 

**Standard Edition, price from Amazon.com,

 

*The view from the rich world!

...and not the #1 reason for FLOSS

But in Africa...

Licensing Cost of Windows XP + Office* in the US:

     $560

 

But in KENYA:

GDP/capita (average annual income) $371

Effective cost of Windows XP + Office (per capita)

     18 months’ GDP

      (I.e. the cost of a single copy is 18 months average income)

...Cost really DOES matter

Licensing Cost of Windows XP + Office in the US

     $560

 

KENYA: GDP/capita $371

Effective cost of Windows XP + Office (per capita)

     18 months’ GDP

 

Comparing with US GDP/capita: $35 277 p.a…

     Effective cost in $ equivalent for a single copy of Windows XP + Office in Kenya: $53 283

 

 

 

...Cost really DOES matter

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS. Although other barriers exist (hardware, bandwidth) software licence fees are yet another additional barrier, but can be avoided.

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

FLOSS can mean better security...

FLOSS helps localisation

l    Proprietary vendors are motivated by global profit-maximisation strategies

l    They often don’t care about local issues and user needs – unless they matter in “a global context”!

l    Many FLOSS developers may have absolutely no interest in software usability for Xhosa speakers

l    But FLOSS developers allow and encourage those with locally relevant motives to adapt their software

l    This allows projects such as translate.org.za, LinEx, adapting software to local needs, culture

 

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

FLOSS develops local skills

l    Not skills to use FLOSS applications, but skills learnt through participating in the FLOSS community

l    FLOSS encourages not only passive “use” but active participation in the creative process

l    FLOSS provides a very low barrier to entry for creativity – you don’t have to be creative but if you want to, you easily can

What motivates FLOSS developers?

Learning skills – then sharing!

l    78% of developers join the FLOSS community “to learn and develop new skills” (70% continue for this reason)

l    67% of developers continue their participation in the FLOSS community “to share knowledge and skills


Source: Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) Study of Developers

 

These skills have economic value

l    30% of developers participate in the FLOSS community “to improve job opportunities

l    Over 30% of developers derive income directly through their FLOSS work

l    A further 20% derive indirect income as a result of their FLOSS wor

l    18% got job because of FLOSS experience


Source: Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) Study of Developers

 

Employers appreciate this…

l    36% of organisations “totally” or “somewhat” agree that employees can work on FLOSS projects on employer time

l    These are not software companies! 16% of low IT-intensity companies (retail, automobiles, tourism, construction) “totally agree” with this


Source: Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) Study of Users

 

…but don’t pay for it.

l    FLOSS communities are like informal apprenticeships – but apprentice/students and master/teachers contribute their own time for free

l    Nothing in life is free; but this is a social cost borne voluntarily by the participants themselves and not paid for directly by those who benefit (employers, society at large)

“To each according to need…”

l    Everyone can benefit equally from this training, though not everyone invests equally in it – many “teachers” may have been formally trained at university or at work

l    In the larger perspective, this training system represents a subsidy – or technology transfer – from those who pay for formal training to those who don’t (or can’t)

“To each according to need…”

l    Within countries, this represents a technology transfer from big companies to SMEs, who can less afford formal training

l    Globally, this represents a technology transfer from economies who can afford formal training, to those who cannot

 

“To each according to need…”

l    Sectoral benefits: poor countries may have formal computer training during computer science degree courses, but perhaps not in other subjects (biology)

l    FLOSS usage provides students of other subjects to informally learn computer skills, programming skills and enhance their competence in their formal training

But do we all want to program?

l    How will we know?

l    HTML is a programming language – the web only took off because it was open, so people could learn to write their own sites just by copying and changing other sites

l    “Programming” covers a very broad  range of skills; FLOSS allows entry at any degree with little investment in time or effort

But do we all want to program?

l    In a proprietary environment, you have to decide to be a programmer, then buy development software, then spend lots of time and effort – all of which is a risk and entry barrier

l    With FLOSS, you can tinker. You don’t need to buy tools. You can use them to the extent you choose.

But do we all want to program?

l    Learning skills in FLOSS, you risk losing only your time and effort

l    However, since the barrier to entry is low (HTML!) you can control the degree of your investment – paddle at the shallow end or dive in deeper.

l    In proprietary environments, the dividing line between user and developer is much sharper – the pool has only a deep end, you have to dive in or stay out altogether.

 

Building ICT competencies

l    Be passive users of “black-box” software or active participants in global ICT?

l    Being active requires being able to create – and choose with the least barriers the level of creativity

l    Developing countries need to avoid being locked out of skills and competencies

l    Skills development requires access to the ability to create – you don’t have to be a programmer, but you should have the choice.

Why Free/Libre/Open (FLOSS)?

l    Cost – Total Cost of Ownership!
The broad, socio-economic change long promised by ICTs would be limited to a tiny elite without FLOSS

l    Performance, flexibility, localisation
Many FLOSS applications provide superior performance & security; adaptation is permitted, e.g. for local languages

l    Skills development
FLOSS is a training environment that increases the earning capacity of community participants without any explicit investment in training: a novel form of technology transfer?

FLOSS is the best way for developing countries to:

l    Rapidly deploy information technology

l    Affordably deploy information technology

l    Develop an ICT infrastructure while respecting IPR, limiting “software piracy”

l    Develop a local ICT software and services skills base and foster a local ICT software and services economy

More information…

The FLOSS project pages & final report

    http://flossproject.org

Licence fees & GDP/capita paper:

     http://firstmonday.org/issues/issue8_12/ghosh/

 

Paper on FLOSS as Official Development Aid,
By Jordi Carrasco Munoz

      http://www.i-today.com.vn/itoday/open_source/baocao/

      jordi_europeancommunity.ppt