Microsoft makes peace with Indonesia

The Indonesian government has agreed to pay Microsoft $50,000 -- one dollar for every government computer running an unlicensed copy of Windows

Microsoft has reached an agreement with the Indonesian government in a bid to knock the country off the number five slot for global unauthorised software use.

Under the terms of the deal, struck last month during a meeting between Sisilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Indonesian president, and Bill Gates, Microsoft’s founder and chairman, the government said it would register and pay $1 (55p) for each of its 50,000 PCs thought to be running illegally copied Windows software.

As no records exist of which machines are running legal or illegal software, checking them all would take some time. So Microsoft has agreed to this amnesty, whereby the government will, in future, purchase legal software to run all of its PCs and launch a crackdown on the producers of unlicensed packages.

Sofyan Djalil, Minister of Communication and Information, said: “Microsoft is being realistic. They can’t force countries like us to solely use legal software since we can’t afford it so they want us to gradually reduce our use of it.”

One of the problems for Microsoft, however, is the growing use of Internet cafes ('warnets') in the country. Their number has soared over recent years from about 200 in 1997 to around 6,000 today and Judith Monique Samantha, chairwoman of the Indonesian Warnet Association, believes that more than 90 per cent use unlicensed software.

Over the last few weeks, warnets in cities such as Bandung have been raided by police, prompting some to consider moving to open source software such as Linux or even close down.

The Business Software Alliance ranked Indonesia fifth for unauthorised software use during 2003 and 2004 behind Vietnam, Ukraine, China and Zimbabwe. Some 87 per cent of software on the Indonesian market is estimated to have been copied illegally, which meant that last year the sector was worth only $27.3 million, although it had the potential to generate $210 million.