As posted by: Wall Street Journal
As an advocate for free, open-source software, I have run into Microsoft's "battles" many times, and your article ("Microsoft Battles Low-Cost Rival for Africa," page one, Oct. 28) made visible many of the issues around money-poor African nations being wooed by a large, powerful monopoly.
However, your article doesn't go into the deeper value of using FOSS in Africa. Because FOSS supplies the source code for the software used, end users have the choice of using the software as it exists on the Internet or changing the software to meet their needs. Getting security fixes for software running on older systems (a natural need when you make $3 a day), changing the software to support your native language (not everyone speaks English), getting ancient peripherals to work long after the vendor lost interest in them (usually less than a year after the product ships), and developing a software economy in their own economic terms (creating high-tech jobs inside of their countries, instead of sending the money out of their countries) are all things that should be considered in the argument of free versus closed-source software.
The public should ask how a company like Microsoft can continue to justify to their shareholders creating needed changes to their software for people who can't pay for those changes? The answer is that they can't justify it. In the future they will have to either start charging for the software on which people are now dependent or abandon the effort.
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