Patrick O'Beirne wrote:
> [RISKS] Risks Digest 24.01
> Date: Tue, 9 Aug 2005 13:58:34 -0500 (CDT)
> From: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: Hermann Chinery-Hesse and software in Ghana
> There is an interesting article in the August 2005 issue of IEEE Spectrum
> on the above subject. Mr. Chinery-Hesse runs a very successful software
> business in Ghana. Some of the high points:
> * Rather extreme measures to protect proprietary software, such as updates
> installed in personal visits by software company employees.
Seems like a great idea.. Personalized customer service, in short
selling software and maintenance/consulting services together.
This is what has made IBM succesful again in the post-mainframe world
over the last 10 years, and seems like a great strategy for Africa.
But then, the justification...
> This to cope
> with conditions in a country where any sense of ethics is practically
Ethics are nonexistent in the whole country of Ghana?! Sigh..
In reality, with regard to intellectual property, I believe people all
over the world behave very similarly. The difference is in the
eenforcement. Witness the music and movie downloads in North America,
pirated CDs everywhere etc. When there is no enforcement, people think
of it as "free", no matter what the legalese says. When there is
enforcement, and the penalty gets severe enough, people start reading
the fine print. This is the same of rich people, poor people, people in
the west, east, south etc. whether you are talking about pirated
software, bootleg music tapes, photocopied text books, etc.
It's not the inherent "sense of ethics" which varies. It's the economic
and legal environment which determines a) whether it's worthwhile for
the producer to enforce, and b)whether it's worthwhile or even possible
for the consumer to pay the official price.
> * Shunning of open source software, on the grounds that having the source
> makes it too easy for unscrupulous users to modify the code so as to line
> their own pockets.
Sorry but that is a ridiculous statement. The whole point of open source
software is to allow users to modify the code. In fact I believe that is
the *definition* of open source. Otherwise it's called proprietary
software. Depending on the specific open source license that is used,
there may or may not be restrictions on whether you can redistribute the
modifications. In some cases "lining your pockets" is actually
encouraged, because the original creators reasoned that the more value
that can be added along the chain, the more likely it is that the whole
thing will gain adoption, reach critical mass, and therefore offer more
opportunities for all the parties in the chain.
> This last item could well be criticized as security through obscurity.
> Surely the incentives are there for users to make a considerable effort to
> tamper with closed source proprietary software. One could argue that open
> source software would be easier to audit for unauthorized modifications.
> But then who audits the auditors? And how can they be sure that the code
> actually running in the machine is accurately represented by the source
> they can see.
> This suggests a larger research topic: how can we make computer systems
> are guaranteed to "work right" when they are to be installed in a den of
Den of thieves? I don't know if the phrase comes from Mr. Chinery-Hesse,
but if so, it's disappointing to see a businessman insulting his
customer base, especially if it has so far allowed him to grow a "very
successful software business".
There's an old saying: "Don't sh*t where you eat!"
Any business person would be wise to heed that advice!
> Seems like this has applicability to the problem of electronic
> voting systems in the U.S.
> Patrick O'Beirne, BSc, MA, FICS, managing director
> http://www.SystemsPublishing.com Tel:+353 55 22294
> "Spreadsheet Check and Control" courseware book with
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