What’s the price of a Computer these days? At $750 (~ Rs 30 000) you can get a pretty decent one – maybe powerful enough to play some of the latest games! So for most office (typing, spreahdsheet) jobs and browsing, a simple $600 (~ Rs 25 000) PC will certainly do the job.
However, the PC won’t run on its own: we’ll need software (and an OS) and most of us go blindly for Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. Despite all the criticism they’ve received, they do the job but they are
- Windows Operating System
- Windows XP Home Edition: ~ $200 (Rs 8000)
- Windows XP professional Edition: ~ $ 250 (Rs 10 000)
- Windows Vista Home Edition: ~$ 200 (Rs 8000)
- Windows Vista Professional Edition: ~ $300 (Rs 12 000)
- Microsoft Office
- Office 2007 Standard: ~ $325 ( Rs 13 000)
- Office Professional: ~$375 (Rs)
So most computers will need an additional $500 investement to be usable which brings the total cost to ($500 + $600) $11 000 (Rs 44 000) which is reasonable if you live in the US but certainly not in Africa where “36.2% of the population is living on under $1 per day” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africa. Yet it could prove too costly to be left out of the eWorld trend!
Open Source to the rescue
One of the most widely used Linux distribution these days is ubuntu … and it happens to be African! It’s a fantastic distribution that’s updated every 6 months (yes a brand new revised OS every 6 months) with updates coming out on a weekly basis – Cost: $0.
Cost of Open Office (whose documents respect the ISO standard): $ 0
So just by making a little effort and moving to Open source software, can incur benefits of $500 which is not negligible! And the list of software does not apply only to Windows and Office; here a list of Windows software and their linux equivalent: http://www.opensourceafrica.org/default.php?view=softwarereplace
So if it’s all so good, why aren’t people moving to the world of Open source staright away? There are many obstacles in the way of which not all are to do with the software themselves
I’m very sorry to say that but many African regimes are among the most corrupt in the world and investing into free software will generate $0 in terms of commision. Moreover, there’s a huge lobby behind adopting “paid” software
- Visibility in the media
The voices crying out for open source are very hard to hear and subdued by the very loud voices behind “paid” software. For example, how many have heard of the new release of KDE (which is a real landmark)? Yet whenever Apple or Microsoft does something, it’s a very very big event that’s covered by the press, TV, … and is considered the next essential gadget.
Inertia is one of the biggest force at work in this world – people are relcutant to change. Many PC users have been brought up knowing nothing else but the world created by Microsoft – Linux is just a thing for geeks that is rather scary!
Also, even governments do not have the courage to advocate Open source and use open source themselves. Lack of support is often a major fear but support will be supplied as the need for it is created.
- User-Friendliness of software
This is an issue with Linux and a few other Linux based software. Normally they now work out of the box but sometimes for some unknown reason they just won’t work! Ubuntu has done a lot of effort in that direction but there’s still a small small thing missing to reach total user-friendliness
Things are looking better for Linux -with especially Suse and Ubuntu (Kubuntu) leading the fight – and the Open source community in general. As more and more awareness is raised and software get better and better, it will be hard to overlook them.
If the marketting is done properly, and the Open source world opens instead of being viewed as a geeks thing, the future looks bright. In the end, it’ll all be about the image.
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An interesting website: http://www.opensourceafrica.org/
I’ve assumed the following change Rate: 1 US Dollar ($1) = 40 Mauritian Rupees (Rs 40)