I agree with your analysis in many respects, but I do want to gently raise an issue of "open source" and cost. I think we tend to confuse the question of platform and operating system with applications (not that you did in your note, but many do). In fact, some of the most interesting products on the market are driven by/based on open source components and systems; hybrids between the 2 worlds are not just common but are in fact part of the logic of open source, I would have thought.
Frankly, I think many folk who become enthralled with open source but then let that bleed into the realm of applications often severely understate the cost of fine-tuning and operational support - I think partly this comes from the "hobbyist" in many of the IT community; it's just fun to fix and design and grow something. But often the true costs, both direct costs as well as even more painful "opportunity costs", are greatly understated, with a focus mostly on up front licensing costs.
We tend to make the argument that small entities and developing country organizations cannot afford commercial solutions, but for some applications I think you can make the opposite argument, that in many cases it's the open source solutions and tinkering that can't be afforded, not just in dollar procurement terms but mostly from allocating scarce IT resources to those tasks. Of course there are a number of places with enough IT human resource capital (such as China, South Africa and India) where this is not an issue, but for many others I do think one needs to be abit careful about the unalloyed pluses often presented for open source apps.
I think you are right that Linux enjoys a bright future in the developing world, but the cost savings of open source should not be assumed as a given.
From: African Network of IT Experts and Professionals (ANITEP) List on behalf of Alexander Osterwalder
Sent: Sat 1/10/2004 10:10 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Web-Servers in Africa
I'm not an expert in this domain but I think there are some considerations
and outlooks concerning Windows/Linux in general and in Africa specifically.
- Illegal copies of Windows are spread widely and are easily accessible today
- Windows still stays somewhat easier for non-experienced IT workers
(therefore the choice). Particularly installation of side-programmes are
often easier (though an arsenal of Open Source progs exist)
- In the long term it will become tougher to get hold of cheap illegal
Windows copies (because of better software protection and enforced
copyrights - even in Africa...)
- Therefore in the long term there will be a shift towards Open Source,
particularly Linux in low-income countries.
Personally I would go for Open Source solutions for cost reasons. Also,
online support on websites and in chat rooms is great. The cost for
commercial solutions won't come down for developing country markets and
will stay too high proportionally. Paying the full price for Windows
doesn't make sense for an SME company in a developing country (and mostly
not even in OECD countries). And as Sun Microsystems is strongly supporting
Star Office (comparable to MS Word, Powerpoint, Excel, etc), the supply for
professional office programmes is assured even on the desktop level.
Would be interested in any comments!!
Cheers from a medium-cool winterday in Lausanne, Switzerland,
At 10:41 09.01.2004 +0000, Uwe Wahser wrote:
>I somehow miss the traffic on AFRIK-IT caused by the cumulated internet and
>Y2K hypes :-) Are there still experts left? I have a specific question
>about the aktual usage of tools when setting up a web-server in a
>francophone African setting.
>We were thinking about setting up a Linux/Apache server for a small intra-
>net kind of WebServer for a public service. This would have been our
>standard platform in the western hemisphere.
>When looking at the IT infrastructure in the capital, we had the feeling
>that in the specific country (Guinea) Linux only played a minor role. I was
>a little surprised, since most of the local IT-professionals I met, had
>undergone training on Linux servers during their studies in African
>What is your experience/estimation? Is it feasible to invest into
>OpenSource servers in Africa or better go with the commercial solutions?
>What are the international NGOs mainly riding on and what do you think is
>tia for your advice,
University of Lausanne
Tel: +41 (0)21 692.34.20