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The Technology Battle for Africa

Posted by bizomx on Wed, 05/20/2009 - 12:27

"In Africa, Microsoft faces strong competition from open-source software, in particular the Linux operating system. Many use Linux and run free counterparts to the Microsoft Office suite."

The BBC has more details about the showdown of open source versus proprietary software in Africa. When discussing the issue of cost, the piece quotes Microsoft's chairman for Africa, Dr. Cheikh Modibo Diarra, however he feels that the question of affordability can be overcome by simply changing the business model.
“You buy Microsoft software, and you buy it once and for all, the cost that we tell you is the total cost for ownership”. He told the BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme. For Dr Diarra, one problem alone defines Africa's situation.“Technology wise, African needs can be summarised in one word: access," he said.

On the other end of the story is Ken Banks from Kiwanja.net who has spent 15 years developing open source applications in Africa. His logic is that 'Today we're seeing growing open-source programmer, developer communities in South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and other African countries. Clearly, if you have this informal programming sector coming up, access to source code is almost critical if they are going to be able to take advantage of these new tools that are emerging. He also feels that even the cost of open-source software is over-exaggerated.“Not all open-source software is hard to use or requires training," he said.

Well, the battle rages on, hopefully the emerging African developers and users pick the tool(s) that suit their needs the best.

- Bernard Anyan - Mensah