I noticed that Ghana came up and I wanted to make a few comments since I
am based there.
On 3/14/05, Edward Cherlin wrote:
On Tuesday, 8 March 2005, Don Slater wrote:
If Windows XP were sold at the price it usually commands in pirate
markets, it would be perfectly OK.
Not really. There is no practical way to get Windows into local
languages. The only way Microsoft allows this, apart from doing the
development itself (Don't hold your breath) is for a government to take
out a license, contract out the development work, and then hand the
results back to Microsoft to sell. This is not realistic for more than a
few major languages.
There is not a huge demand for local language applications right now. I
am not for example, aware of a local language newspaper, though from
time to time, one sees local languages being quoted in the press,
however, these are expressed in an English encoding, since the
characters required are absent from most fonts.
It could be that there is not a huge demand because the capability is
not well integrated with the operating environment, but I would place
more weight on what is seen in the press. Radio is an entirely different
matter where the demand is very strong for local content. Local language
usage here is usually an oral affair outside of the academic
So doesn't it make just as much sense to pressure M$ for the equivalent
of educational licences, or simply donated software? The demand would be
for a more appropriate pricing structure, and would be similar to
demanding that drug companies allow or produce very cheap generic
versions of drugs that are essential to lives in poor countries.
There are two problems that I see with a more appropriate pricing
1) The additional volume from dropping prices to affordable levels may
well result in substantively lower revenue. This is not a situation that
I would expect the companies to respond to unless they have to. Free
software may provide the necessary motivation.
2) No one is interested in a stripped down or crippled version of
standard software. People mostly want what works, what everyone else
uses. Specialists or hobbyists may say otherwise but they don't make up
the majority or even close to it. If a company could sell its product
under an appropriate pricing structure and still make money, it may
result in unwelcome pricing pressure.
To add to that, I would say the issue of licensing is irrelevant. I
think that people use the software and get it any way they can and I
consider it a reasonable practice given the local cost of licensed
software and local salaries/revenues. In return, they put up with
inconveniences due to not being properly licensed (such as Windows
Update access) and that's a decision that costs them less.
The companies are able to sell their product at prices higher than what
the majority of consumers could afford in order to maximize revenue.
Those who use unlicensed software help to ensure that the market share
of illegal proprietary software remains high. In this light, one can see
unreasonably high prices as an inducement to ensure illegal copying is
part of the culture of computer usage. Later on, technological measures
can be used to prevent actual unlicensed use (such as encountered when
installing Microsoft AntiSpyware)
This is Microsoft's strategy in taking over Digital Partners and
engineering a merger between Digital Partners and the Grameen Foundation
USA. The Gates Foundation gives away hundreds of millions of dollars
worth of software (if-sold value) to prime this market. The FOSS
movement gives away far more software, but our if-sold value is $0.
I tend to get worried (particularly as an ethnographer) when I
So you should appreciate the value of local language support.
Indigenous Knowledge is a Red Herring
for my alternate viewpoint on the issue of local language with respect
to the situation in Ghana.
see the word 'only' used in these discussions - there may seem to be
only one solution *technologically*, but there are always multiple
political and economic strategies, and Linux is 'only' one of these.
Free Software/Open Source software is not a technology. It is an
economic and political movement, away from The Tragedy of The
Anti-Commons. Linux runs on almost every 16-bit or better computer
architecture, including x86, M68000, PPC, Sparc, IBM 390, ARM, and many
more, and FOSS more generally runs on every major operating system,
including the many variants of Unix, Windows, Mac (native and BSD both),
and a multitude of lesser products.
The confluence between software as technology and software as movement
has caused some mismatch in what values should be. Linux is excellent
software but some of the evangelism behind it appears to be floating in
the air instead of feet planted on ground.
I find it worrying to