Free Software In Africa Wizards of OS 3 Guido Sohne <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organizations & People • Pan African (FOSSFA) • Governments (CSIR, South Africa) • Non profits (translate.org.za) • Educational (SchoolNet Namibia, NetDay, DireqLearn, wizzy digital courier) • Corporate (linuxsolutions; Obsidian) • Individuals (Uwe Thiem, Neil Blakeley-Milner, Dwayne Bailey)
Why Free Software? • Better Technology • Cost Reduction • Multiple Suppliers/Sources • Technology Transfer • Access to ‘Intellectual Property’ • Development of Indigenous Solutions • Employment
Better Technology • Largest adoption of free software is driven by a few applications in particular domains • Sendmail / qmail / postfix: cheap and reliable mail servers (ISPs) • MySQL: cheap, reliable database server (web developers, software developers, ISPs) • BIND: standard for domain name resolution (ISPs) • Apache: cheap, reliable, ubiquitous web server (ISPs, web developers) • PHP: simple, low barrier to entry scripting (ISPs, web developers)
Better Technology • Most use of free software is solely on servers. • Windows servers / development machines are preferred by most developers. MySQL, PHP, Apache are most often run on Windows. • Build on Windows. Deploy on Linux. • Linux on the desktop is relatively rare, even amongst developers. • Application advantages and availability drive choice (people use what gets the job done easiest and fastest)
Cost Reduction • Source: License Fees and GDP/capita, Rishab Aiyer Ghosh • Ghana $269 GDP/capita $73,442 effective price (Windows/Office XP)24.98 months of GDP/capita • South Africa$2620 GDP/capita$7,541 effective price (Windows/Office XP)2.57 months of GDP/capita • From the above data, it would seem obvious that free software has enormous benefits and advantages when compared to proprietary software.
Cost Reduction • Effective price of proprietary software == 0 • Given high and unrealistic prices for software, illegal copying becomes part of the culture of computing. • Sharing of software (but the software is not free) • GPL like behavior on non-GPL software • All web developers have Dreamweaver, Fireworks, Photoshop, MySQL, PHP, Apache • Less than 1% have paid for the proprietary bits • It therefore becomes clear that both proprietary and free software have equivalent cost reduction characteristics!
Multiple Suppliers & Sources • A touted advantage of free software is the availability of a multitude of suppliers and sources that reduce or avoid vendor lock in. • Distributions like RedHat, SuSE, Mandrake, Debian, Gentoo each build on common ground yet find ways to differentiate their offerings. • On the other hand, companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Sun, SAP etc each build a different product that has little in common with the competing products. The best scenario is that data import/export from one product to another is possible.
Multiple Suppliers & Sources • The situation in Africa? • “Technology is something that comes in a box, not something that you build yourself” • Little to no presence of the Linux/OSS companies and distributors in sub-Saharan Africa • Many companies sell the same proprietary products • Antivirus software is especially popular. The market clearly sees the demand for such software, though this is again, massively copied. • For the average, under-informed and budget-challenged decision maker, it appears that proprietary software has more suppliers and more choice than free software.
Technology Transfer • Free software can help African developers learn faster and better. • Challenges: Bandwidth, cost of computing devices and peripherals, availability of books and learning materials • Problems: Very few African developers, whether free or proprietary; generally low level of skill due to environmental challenges
Challenges • Bandwidth costs a lot. $400/month to share 32k pipe with four other people. $0.66 per hour for café access. • Hardware markup is typically 100%-200%. What costs 500 euro here costs 1000 euro there. • No credit card. No Amazon. No books. • Due to credit card fraud, sellers won’t ship to the sub-region. • Learning and technology transfer are impeded.
Problems • Poor educational base: University of Ghana has 6 PCs for 300 computer science students. 100 PCs for 12,000 students. • 40% literacy rate. For basic literacy. This is not advanced literacy. • By the time most people reach the age of 14, more than half of the potential developer pool has been lost – poor teaching and education, drop outs to sell dog chains by the traffic light, etc. • The few who reach university (total intake of 15,000 per year max out of population of 20 million) get to face the computers in universities problem.
Those Who Make It • The few who manage to learn how to write software are marked more by the fact that they survived the system than anything else. • It is a miracle that they exist. They are not supposed to exist? • Few job choices. Exploitative employers. Low salaries (save 100% salary for fifteen years and you can afford to buy a car. House? 100 years) • African developers are extremely busy trying to make a living. They have no free time and no wish to share code, however are willing to ‘steal’ code. • Deep seated need to make money and proprietary software development is the only way now.
Economic Freedom • Can one be said to be free if 100% of the time, one is concerned about survival? • Freedom is on different levels: political freedom, economic freedom, intellectual freedom. • Africa gained political freedom starting from 1957 (Ghana). • Within 25 years, export commodity prices dropped from around 2000 GBP per tonne to 800 GBP per tonne • Within this same time, the population grew by 25% • Within this same time, five military governments violently overthrew the previous government • Africa keeps getting poorer and poorer
Roots of Poverty • Where does this poverty come from? • Near factors: Instability, poor governance, disease, war, famine • Far factors: Legacy bequeathed by Western intervention, greed and sheer callousness • Story starts with the exploration of Africa by Europe
First Encounters • When Europe first encountered Africa, there were institutions of learning, renowned in those days such as Timbuktu • In order to trade, a game was played. You versus your enemies, we help you, you help us. • Seeds of internal conflict. Seeds of current wars and ethnic divisions. • Some collaborators made war on others, and sold these others into slavery. • Africa lost the best and the strongest, those who went to defend their people. • Today, America has some of the world best athletes. The best and strongest bred true.
People To Resources • Somewhere in the 1800s?, not far from here, Europe met to decide how to share the resources of Africa. • The Partitioning of Africa • Africa was of course not consulted to determine what her voice would be. • Today, we have the G8. Africa is still not consulted though her leaders go to beg for money or negotiate for better terms. • Fundamentally, there is no negotiation going on.
Use of Resources • Primary goods only bought from Africa. • Raw materials. Unprocessed agricultural goods. Crude oil. Tree trunks. • Taken to feed the industries and factories of Europe • Converted into finished goods. • Exported to the rest of the world. • Some material returns to Africa. 100% markup by local merchants added.
Division of People • Result of partitioning of Africa and colonialism? • Language barriers and language divides • Several small, borderline viable countries. • Few large countries, wracked by war for resources. • Most importantly, natural forces keep these nations from ever joining together. • France does not favor collaboration within West Africa, since this would dilute its power. • Unspoken but this is a reality.
Result? • Poverty. Lack of resources. Struggling to survive. 1000 PCs for 12,000 students. • Political freedom but no economic freedom. • No time to think. No time to relax and debate. • No social security. No health insurance. No safety net. • No Free Software. • The wealth and success of the West is inextricably linked to the poverty and failure of Africa.
What Can Be Done? • Long term: Redistribute wealth and opportunity more fairly. Be fair and not greedy. • Medium term: Free software, representing the force for change for the better, the force removing the unreasonable greed, must win its struggle. • Short term: Developer by developer, we grow the community one at a time.
Programmers Without Frontiers • This was an idea that was proposed earlier at the WSIS proceedings. • Needs support, funding, membership and energy of lots of developers. • Should mentor young African developers, help them improve skills • Help them learn the right path, the free path, the only path where they may have a future chance of prosperity.
AfricanIntelligence • This was proposed at the first ever African developers meeting. • Aims to find the African developers and network them. • Aims to improve their quality of life and income by building the El-Dorado – the Project Pipeline • Needs formal support, needs to gain developer interest. • We have a vision. • We have the desire to increase developer numbers and skills • We want to enhance employment and employability. • We also have a logo. And not much else …