Open source: Developing markets and anti-Americanism

Open source: Developing markets and anti-Americanism

Summary: Open Source in Government: Outside of the US and Europe, cost is a big motivator for using open source software - but it's not the only one


Rishab Ghosh, programme leader of an open source research project at the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT) in Holland conducted a study recently comparing licence fees with a country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.

The results, even after software price discounts, showed that the cost of proprietary software for developing markets is "enormous" in terms of relative purchasing power. Buying Windows XP and Office XP on in the US is equal to almost 3 months of GDP per capita in South Africa and over 16 months of GDP per capita in Vietnam. This is equivalent to charging a single–user licence fee in the US of $7,541 and $48,011 respectively.

Even if software is discounted to account for local pricing, it is usually still extremely expensive and there is no guarantee that this discount will be sustained in the long term, says Ghosh.

Read part one of our special report on open source in government!

Europe and the US philosophically divided on open source?

Much of the costs associated with open source deployments in mature markets are due to the cost of replacing a system, updating related applications and retraining staff, while in emerging markets technology projects are more likely to be new installations, which means that licence fee savings for open source software make more of a difference, since updates and retraining are not an issue.

Open source software also offers an advantage to countries through its potential to develop the local industry. This is particularly important in developing markets which often don't have a local software industry.

"Local companies are limited in the integration and support services they can provide for proprietary software. Deep support — fixing software bugs, customising it to user requirements, or integrating extensively with other software — requires deep access," Ghosh said recently at a free software conference in Brazil.

The availability of software in a local language can also be a factor in the deployment and support of open source software by governments. For example, the South African government has funded a project to translate into the 11 official languages of South Africa. This project is nearly completed, while Microsoft Office 2003 supports only one of the official South African languages — English — according to the Microsoft Web site.

"From an emerging markets perspective, open source is very effective at localisation, while Microsoft looks at how big the market is and how strategic it is before it makes a decision," says Redmonk analyst James Governor.


  1. China: Local software for local people
  2. India: Speaking your language
  3. Brazil: The spirit of community


Topics: Apps, Software Development

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  • Funny, I always thought Brazil was located in the western hemisphere. Oh wait! It is!
  • anti-Americanism ???

    Most of the major Linux distributions are American.

    So tell me again how using Linux is anti-Americanism?????
  • DO NOT click the Times of India link! It threw a bunch of popups right past my blocker, and started trying to install something(!) When I tried to kill the installer, my whole system hung.
  • The link to the Times of India has been removed.

    Thanks for your feedback -- it seemed to work alright in testing earlier, so apologies for it causing problems.
  • You can ask every serious IT security expert to learn that it is not paranoid to be afraid of backdoors in closed source systems. For example, do you remember the NSA-key in Windows NT which could be interpreted as a backdoor? What about the CIA-made software bug which caused the explosion of a soviet gas pipeline and was the biggest non-nuclear explosion ever? Finally the US-american spy plane which stranded 2001 in China represents the relationship of the USA to China. Now tell me that there are no good reasons for China to distrust the USA! This is not paranoid and it is not anti-Americanism as well. Anti-Americanism is to decline everything from America without a reason. (In fact you are talking about anti-US-Americanism and not anti-Americanism)
  • F/OSS is pro-American. Where do you get this anti- Americanism from. MS is not the US -- yet -- as much as Gates would like you to think so. Gates has no respect for US laws whether traffic laws or trade laws. No respect for the US DOJ. MS pays little or no taxes and causes billions of damage every quarter through lost productivity in the work place caused by its defective products (downtime, maintenance, viruses, cracking and phishing).

    What's more "American" freedom and self governenance which you get with F/OSS? Or the one-size-fits-all, top down Soviet style monolith provided by Microsoft?