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NACI: Gov't of South Africa Pushes Open Source 246

GNU lover writes "National Advisory Council on Innovation in South Africa has issued a release concering the use of Open Source and the digital divide." The use of open source in the 3rd/2nd world is one way to get around licensing costs - at least more honest then pirating.
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NACI: Gov't of South Africa Pushes Open Source

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  • "Certainly not"... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mgkimsal2 ( 200677 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:45AM (#2960115) Homepage
    He runs into a big problem: not only is the latest software expensive with all manner of bewildering bells and whistles that he does not need, but it doesn't run on such an old machine. What is he to do? Would it be legal to find and use an old copy of the operating system and spreadsheet? "Certainly not", replies his software dealer, and sternly warns him of the fate that awaits users of illegal software copies.

    I've got a problem with this scenario. Are we REALLY saying that if I found someone who had a LEGALLY LICENSED copy of Windows 95 from 1995, we could not engage in any sort of transaction to transfer the license (per whatever terms were stated in the Win95 original license) over to me?

    Arguing that ANY transfer of license at all is 'illegal' to bolster the 'open source' frenzy strikes me as very shortsighted. It's just not necessary to make up or exaggerate the situation to make the case for open software.
    • by JesseL ( 107722 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @01:16AM (#2960215) Homepage Journal

      I'm not saying that you shouldn't be able to resell old software,but Microsoft cerainly has [].

      • by conner_bw ( 120497 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @01:26AM (#2960240) Journal
        This has happened to me.

        Trying to sell a LEGAL copy of Visual Basic on ebay. One I purchased and no longer intended to use at all (I moved away from MS and VB for stuff like PERL and PHP... yes apples and oranges, but VB programming would be something I would NEVER do, hence me trying to cheaply sell the software to someone who would use it)

        ebay, on behalf of Microsoft, shut the auction down.

        I don't know if this is corperate bullying or actually a legal issue, but I tend to lean towards some sort of law mumbo jumbo crap in the endless licenses found within software of this type.

        So to say the statement of illegally reselling closed source software is outrageous is probably further than the truth than to say it isn't.
        • I guess you could always argue the point that you hadn't used the software (perhaps you had bought the software in error, had decided against using it after reading the EULA, etc) and thus were legally just reselling on what was sold to you in the first place.

          But when ebay gets a call from Microsoft they aren't going to think twice about jumping on command. I would imagine that you could call them up and debate the semantics of the situation with an ebay representative but I'd bet the bottom line would be the same - no auction for you.

          IANAL, but I'm willing to bet that, given the right ammunition, there are circumstances under which you could prevail. Though I doubt that, once you've shelled out for legal representation, you wouldn't have much to show for efforts, even if you managed to get full retail value for the package.

          Personally, I'd take it up with ebay but stop short of calling in the suits. At worst, it'll get them squirming about it for a while and, at best, you might just catch a break.
          • I guess you could always argue the point that you hadn't used the software (perhaps you had bought the software in error)
            Good idea, committing fraud should solve this person's legal problems.
      • You are quite correct about Micro$oft's ambitions as a Justice department in their own right.
        Yet at the same time it seems no decent jurisprudence seems to exist in the US of A to support their claim.
        And in countries like Germany and Holland Jurisprudence has gone against the Micro$oft view and there are even companies who's business plan is based on trade in second-hand software licences!

        I'd be surprised Microsoft would get away with their claims of greed in South Africa.

    • Arguing that ANY transfer of license at all is 'illegal' to bolster the 'open source' frenzy strikes me as very shortsighted.

      I agree, those idiots in Redmond had better shut up. =:> I don't see the folks from Debian busting into grade schools looking for old versions of Emacs without documentation. The extortion of hundreds of thousands of dollars from US public school systems for "unregistered" and "pirated" coppies of Word and what not is a matter of public record []. So, if second hand PC's get you that much trouble here, where M$'s avowed interest is the children, how do you think they will act overseas? The only frenzy I see is people reacting to the new blue screen of death, programs they pay for advertising at them, the mega improved clippy animations and quirkyness in general. They get a daily rise out of such insults. It's imposible to exaggurate the situation as people who don't have to deal with it all won't believe half of the truth.

      Are we REALLY saying that if I found someone who had a LEGALLY LICENSED copy of Windows 95 from 1995, we could not engage in any sort of transaction to transfer the license (per whatever terms were stated in the Win95 original license) over to me?

      Yes, Microsoft really says that, as was extensively documented here [] by Michael's excellent copyrant. Let's not forget the Naked PC [] effort, where M$ tried to quash the sales of any computer without an OS. Kinda goes to show you where there heart is.

    • This may sound like stating the obvious, but.. One copy, sure, but what if you need 3000 copies?

  • Dang (Score:5, Funny)

    by NiftyNews ( 537829 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:45AM (#2960116) Homepage
    "The use of open source in the 3rd/2nd world is one way to get around licensing costs"

    Now if only they could license food...
    • I'm sure they could probably arrange with some vendor of software to have some extra donations made in food to their country... A little bit of PR, especially these days, can go a long way in politics. A loud $5 worth of contributions can help your cause more than $100 silently.. (assuming legal ethics here..)

      Seriously.. we aughta set something up for them, with a jokingly entitled "per license" gift.. Just the gift keeps on giving...
    • Re:Dang (Score:3, Interesting)

      by ImaLamer ( 260199 )
      Well, why not use the computers as a tool to communicate?

      Their local gov't could ask anyone in the world for tips on anything. Solar cooking, ethernet over barbed wire... the point would be to find something to solve all of their smaller problems.

      There is the point of view that GPL software can be used by someone who doesn't have a dime. This alone saves money. But being able to chat, e-mail, use USENET, browse the web, etc... can help them. It can certainly help anyone around the house. Anyone can get online and ask for help with anything. Sometimes you get answers. Of course sometimes you can't.

      Being able to open a free web page somewhere could help a local gov't solve a problem. Geocities could host the question, you provide an e-mail.

      Hopefully that is what the computers would go for. You know they aren't going to 'Nuclear Research', but you hope they will help someone interface with the world.

      When someone orders something from I will lose my faith in the idea.
      • Re:Dang (Score:3, Informative)

        by Twylite ( 234238 )

        Oh dear, you must be an American. Try looking at [] which has information about SA, and links to most of the government web sites. We don't exactly need free hosting on Geocities; in fact we have already hosted an online debate on electronic commerce regulations (which is far more forward-looking than most developed nations).

        Oh, by the by: [ []] (South Africa) ESKOM is the 5th largest utility in the world. They operate the 2 Koeburg reactors, each with a capacity of ~900 MWe. They do have a page listing their generating facilities with capacity.

        ESKOM also developed and are prototyping pebble-based molecular reactors, which Germany and France gave up (citing as impractical) nearly two decades ago. These promise to provide cheap, clean and safe energy to anything up to a small city, and can be located where needed. They promise to be a solution to the energy problem in the third world.

        • Hello Twy - fancy seeing you here :-)

          ESKOM is the 5th largest utility in the world. They operate the 2 Koeburg reactors, each with a capacity of ~900 MWe.

          I thought they closed down the Koeburg reactors well over a decade ago - have they reopened them?

          Although ESKOM is a critical part of the success of Open Source in South Africa, since households would require electricity to power a pc in the first place. How much of SA is still without electricity (from a non-availability view, not non-payment)?

          I'm glad to see SA taking a fantastic step in an excellent direction this time (unlike the malnutrition/Aids argument!).
          • The Koeburg facility on the Cape west coast is still operational. A reactor glitch and some sort of stuff up at the national grid switch in the middle of the Cape was responsible for that massive power failure in Cape Town last year. That facility produces 3200MW, larger than the coal stations in the Transvaal.

            The second reactor has always been experimental, and never produced power commercially. It was shut down some time ago. In light of it being 26 years old and having two safety "incidents" recently due to low maintenance budget, there are proposals to close Koeburg in the near future (2008-ish IIRC).

        • Hey, I'm not knocking anyone... I'm trying to support the idea of having computers everywhere.

    • Slashdot Article:
      NaCl: Gov't of South Africa Pushes Open Salt

      sorry, too much chemistry classes;)
      • NaCl: Gov't of South Africa Pushes Open Salt

        Actually, that was one of the first openly revolutionary move on the part of Ghandi to free India from the British.

        At the time, it was illegal to obtain salt -- except by purchase from government sources. In a tropical country, this is pretty close to taxing air.

        His revolutionary move was to gather together thousands of people who picked up dried sea salt along the beach. The movie "Ghandi" portrays the government forces beating people as they moved forward to pick salt up off the ground.

        This is, perhaps, where the multinationals want to go tomorrow.

    • Now if only they could license food...

      Open Sauce?
    • Now if only they could license food..

      They can. []

  • a World Map (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Alien54 ( 180860 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:45AM (#2960117) Journal
    I would like to see a map of the world color coded depending on the status of government support for open source, etc.

    This would be probably educational, as well as a possible boost in moral.

    Something titled: "Countries in the world where open source is recommended"

    Extra brownie points for links, etc.

    • I find it ironic that you 'would like to see' an open-source map, implying that you are expecting someone else to create it for you. Has the thought ever occured to you that you could do a little research and put together such a map as a contribution to 'education' and to 'boost morale'? Although ideas are nice, the open source world relies on actual contributions.

      To conclude, I find your mindset disturbing and hope you decide to act on your ideas in the future instead of expecting others to act on them for you.


      • Not to mention that the open source world relies heavily on groundless flames to provide its inspiration. Did it ever occur to you that the original poster may not have the expertise to research and create the map as effectively as others, but came up with a novel idea that he wished to share with the community? It seems to me that actual creation comes second to the freedom of ideas that truly defines the open source movement.

        There was no tone of demand in the statement, only a call for any help that the rest of the community may be able to provide. Though, I suppose you may be right - it would be far better for him to strike fourth and research the entirety of the world's internet infrastructure, implement a mapping system, and then present us with such a glorious gift without first asking if something even exists.
    • We've already got the nationalism down pat; we just need some nations dammit! Not really my sig, but hey--------------------- You can't claim a land, if you don't have a flag. Emperors fight for colors on a map.
  • by Why Should I ( 247317 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:49AM (#2960126) Homepage
    This had me in stitches

    Needless to say, lowering software costs by violating proprietary license conditions is not an option. Happily, there are often legal alternatives to proprietary software: non-proprietary "open software".&nbsp(emphasis by me)

    Sounds like their saying that they could just steal proprietry software, but it makes them sad.

    Using open source is not only good for these people monetarily, it's good for them emotionally, since it makes them happy. - lol

    I just hope they fully understand the prinicpal behind releasing any code that uses GPL code in it, i.e. using GPL software components as opposed to just using GPL software applications.

    • It made me laugh too: it's a beautifully dry bit of writing.

      Obviously, the author could have said: "most of our users just ignore proprietary licenses and install the software anyway. We would prefer a plan that doesn't expose us to future lawsuits." But what he wrote got the same point across without implying past sins, yet at the same time showing a course of action that is good and clearly not an attempt to hide prior (obviously non-existent) violations.

      All in all, a really nice turn of phrase.
  • A good start .. (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Eloquence ( 144160 )
    .. would be to clean up [] the "HTML" produced by Microsoft Word for their report. My eyes are burning!
  • News Flash! (Score:4, Funny)

    by jtdubs ( 61885 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:50AM (#2960130)
    News Flash! Poor Counties Choose Free Operating Systems!

    Justin Dubs
  • "at least more honest then pirating."

    Well, the honesty of pirating depends on your point of view, the practical consequences (trade sanctions, government raids, etc.) do add a significant potential cost factor to pirating that isn't there for open source software.

    If Open Source can win the minds of the actual majority of the world, Microsoft may one day be forced to be compatible with it in order to continue doing business in these places. One can only hope...

    • Actually, lets talk about the honesty of pirating. Last I checked, illegal copying is a lot different than boarding a ship, killing or beating the passengers to a bloody pulp while looting the goods (which they do not get to keep an original copy of BTW). The fact that they half to lie so hard about the name should be telling just in itself. Now really, is Microsoft not going to have an incentive to "innovate" unless they can lock out people in Africa from copying software?
  • NACI: Gov't of South Africa Pushs Open Source

    Let's hope they get a copy of the GNU2CanSpell spellchecker. It's obvious that the Slashdot editors didn't ;-)

    *sorry Rob, we're still buddies*
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @12:57AM (#2960152)
    Just a quick comment: these terms have a specific political meaning and they're not being used correctly here. The first world is defined as being the post-war US+Allies+Japan capitalist bloc, the second world is defined as being Russia and it's allied Soviet republics. The third world is defined as being the non-committed nations, often times former colonies now under self-rule. This can be verifed with a simple search on the web, or the old way - reading a book. South Africa, for all it's faults, is not a second or third world country - it was and is a member of the US-led capitalist bloc, and as such, like the former Brit colonies of Oz and Canada, it's a first world country. So there.
    • Your an idiot. Grade 10 World Studies. 1st World-Well Developed Countries (USA, Canada, Britain, and until it's collapse, U.S.S.R)The leaders in the world. 2nd World-Mid-Developed Countries (S.A. countries, along with South Africa, China)The followers in the world. 3rd World-Under Developed Countries (Ethiopia, and those other small african nations)The hopeless in the world. It is now politically incorrect to term nations as above. They are now to be refered (last time I heard) to as 'Developed' and 'Developing'.
      • You're (not 'your') an idiot ;) Grade 12 Geography. First world nations include those you listed, EXCLUDING the USSR, plus most of Europe, Austalia, Japan and others. Second world is a category which was reversed for the USSR and communist nations! Third world included all underdeveloped nations. Incidently there are also "forth" and "fifth" world classifications, which served to break up the "third world" category more precisely.

        It is an issue of some contention as to whether SA is "first" or "third" world. It is generally considered to be a duality - much of our infrastructure and cities is first world, but the problems of poverty and service delivery are typical of third world nations.

      • Actualy, there are two different widely used 1st/2nd/3rd deffinitions. The oldest that was invented by two economist in Algeria, as a reaction to the onesided and prejudical view of industrialized versus development countries. They divided the world in; 1st world: superpowers (USA, USSR). 2nd: developed countries (Europe west & east, Japan, New Zealand etc). 3d: the rest. This view was popularized in the third world by a lot of third world leaders and thinker such as Mao Zedung. During the sixties it was even popular among a lot of left winged groups. Another view also was developed during the same time as a rection to or perhaps a misunderstanding of the third Algerian model; 1st world: Industrialized countries in the West 2nd: Industrialized countries in the East 3d: Undeveloped countries There has been several other models but these two models are the two most comman ones.
    • not exactly (Score:2, Informative)

      by GePS ( 543386 )
      "these terms have a specific political meaning and they're not being used correctly here."

      these terms have more than a political meaning, they have a socio-economic meaning as well. In order to be a 1st world nation, that nation must be a "modern" country. In order to me modern (as defined by the textbook I had for Comparative Politics last semester) one must have attained or be close to attaining the following items:

      1.A quality infrastructure (roads, rails, etc.) (as opposed to religion controlling information)


      4.internatl. trade

      5.capatalist/market economy (although on the surface many African nations have a market economy, it is usually highly "regulated" by various strong men)

      6.rule by a sovereign majority (can we say military dictator?)

      7.emphasis on individual freedom as opposed to enhancement of group/leader of group (again, can we say military dictator?)

      8.centralization of government (for the most part the countries in Africa have this)

      9.national conciousneses (this is still a long way off with all the tribal identities in Africa)

      So, in actuality, many of the African nations are third world, and most of the rest 2nd world countries due to the level of (most often the lack of) modernization.
      • woot, the UK is not first world....
      • Let's see. In SA we have (1), (2) [at least at local/national government level, and for many people], (3), (4), (5), (6), and (8). (7) is debatable because while there is legal respect for individualily, many ethnic groups believe strongly in an "elder", even if they have the right not to. (9) depends on who you ask - the strongest split in SA is still along racial lines.

        • Re:not exactly (Score:2, Informative)

          by Isofarro ( 193427 )
          I'd have to disagree on 5 (capatalist/market economy) somewhat. With four companies (Anglo-American, Rembrant, can't remember the other two) controlling 75% of available stock, its not a true capitalist economy.

          Comparing the road and rail infrastructures -SA's
          road network and quality is so much higher than the UK, but the UK's rail is by far superior to SAs.

          Its difficult to classify SA, and I always think of it as a meld of 1st and 3rd world technologies - it is as you suggest, a duality. Open source is the tool to lower the barrier of moving third world stuff to be competitive in a first world arena.
    • >, the second world is defined as being Russia and >it's allied Soviet republics.

      time fragmentation problem . . .

      1st/2nd world is the Free/Communist split. The second world is nearly gone--the USSR threw in the towel, nad it's subject states ran. The 2nd world is now pretty much limited to N. Korea, Cuba, and Red China . . . and Chinaisheading towards economic freedom which historically leads to political freedom in spite fo the ruling class's attempts to keep control, while Cuba probably veers off the day after Fidel discovers Hell . . .

      The 3d world were those that tried to stay out of both the U.S./W. Europe and the Soviet spheres of influence--in some cases successfully plaing both off against the other by threats to go the other way, getting massive goodies from each. Most of these countries were indeed underdeveloped, but that's not really what made them first world (I don't recall any developed countries that didn't either remain free or have a Bolshevik style overthrow of the legitimite government . . .)


  • by bushboy ( 112290 ) <> on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @01:05AM (#2960174) Homepage
    South Africa finds itself in the unenvieable position of being one of the most stable and prosperous nations in Africa, with a democracy that works.

    It's unenvieable because we have to take the responsibility for the rest of Africa and try to somehow clean up the mess it's in, but at the same time, not be seen in the same light as a country like Zimbabwe, our next door neighbour - unfortunately, this is happening anyway !

    Open source is a good place to start in Africa, but it's not much use in many countries in Africa if there's no computers, or power !

    Lets face it, computers for the population of poorer nations is not really as important as a stable economy and jobs - you can't eat computers !

    What is important is getting the government and government departments of those poor nations on track regarding the use of computers to try to make things more efficient - South Africa, which is fairly technologically adept - is in a good position to make this happen. IOW, a smaller undertaking to try to help the infrastructure of poorer countries cope.

    Yes, we do have the latest computer hardware and software over here in South Afica and techies who know how to use them :)

    So, South Africa should take a leading role in providing cheap computer solutions to poorer nations - good for us ! - it's nice to read something positive about Africa for a change :)
    • Lets face it, computers for the population of poorer nations is not really as important as a stable economy and jobs - you can't eat computers

      A computer is a means to an end, not the end itself. Its the same with miners. You can't eat gold, but you can sell them on an international market at international prices, that gives you income to buy food.

      The same with computers. With a computer, you learn new skills, these skills you use to deliver quality goods, which produces income to buy food that you can eat.

      Look at how far India have come in the last decade by offering their computer skills. I know IBM SA were largely dependant on Indian talent to fix the Y2K problem. India's investment has paid off handsomely - SA can do the same, if it really wants to succeed.

      Open source makes it easier to legally start down that road. I believe Mexico or Brazil are trying the same road at the moment - so it will be a great experience for South Africans that do participate.
  • Not really (Score:3, Informative)

    by m4g02 ( 541882 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @01:05AM (#2960175)
    Everybody talks like if they knew since years that 3rd world countries use Open source... well, i have beent on a lot of this countries for long and will tell you something:

    They DONT use open source stuff, its usually more difficult than Microsoft software and there is not enough education there to, lets say, recompile the kernel. They are in a piracy hipe, you can find full streets of pirated software stores and you can find from screensavers to SQL 2000.

    They use Windows and more Windows, all pirated, even small to medium corporations use pirates Microsoft stuff, goverment has so many things to worry that looking for pirated software isnt even in the list.
    • Get off your high horse, please. Reading the documentation for 5 minutes is pretty much all it takes to recompile the kernel. If you're using FreeBSD it's even easier since the system is far cleaner and better documented. But assuming you're talking about Linux, what is so difficult about it? As a South African myself (now living in the United States) I think attitudes like yours are quite funny. You say that "They don't use open source stuff", which is true, but no more true than any other country, African or not, 1st world or not. People expect computers to be easy to use. They don't expect cars to be easy to use, they accept that they have to learn about clutch control and gear changing, speed limits, etc, but they expect to just be able to sit down and start using a computer without knowing anything about it - even if they are in the I.T industry. That's where the problem lies. If these people bothered to read the documentation that comes with various systems, they would be able to use them quite comfortably. The only education required to use computers is the ability to read the language in which the documentation is written.

    • Since we [] run about 6 linux servers (including a samba domain controller, openldap server, postfix on our mail host etc) and 50 Windows 2000 desktops (all fully licensed), and the one SQL 2000 box we need.

      Linux desktops are coming soon.

      Maybe /. posters should do some research on the country before posting comments like this.

      There are lots of businesses that pirate software, and that is exactly why open source needs to be pushed as a legal alternative (not really a cheaper alternative) to free (as in beer) (possibly proprietary) software.
    • I agree the vast majority of 3rd world computers (including those in SA) run on pirated Micro$oft.
      I don't agree the users would not be able to f.e. recompile a Kernel.
      Quite the contrary, two things are needed to compile a Kernel on an older machine, the will to and plenty of time.
      Time is the cheapest thing around in these places and the will to do it can be promoted with programs like proposed in the original document.

      Personaly I am convinced that those learning to use a computer using OS tools will, after the obvious initial problems, become far more qualified than those just clicking the pre-programmed buttons of closed source.

    • Everybody talks like if they knew since years that 3rd world countries use Open source... well, i have beent on a lot of this countries for long and will tell you something:

      South Africa is not a true 3rd World country. It's a strange mix of 1st and 3rd: 1st in that it has an enviable constitution, democratically elected government, advanced intrastructure, 10 times the teledensity of the rest of Africa - including three GSM operators - and a very mature IT market; 3rd in that there are still vast areas of extreme poverty and a serious serious problem with HIV in some provinces.

      They DONT use open source stuff, its usually more difficult than Microsoft software and there is not enough education there to, lets say, recompile the kernel. They are in a piracy hipe, you can find full streets of pirated software stores and you can find from screensavers to SQL 2000.

      Leaving aside the fact that everyone I know in South Africa can at least write better English than this post, here are a few facts:
      • The BSA is very active here. It's members include all the usual suspects - Microsoft, Autodesk, Lotus et al - each of whom have large local offices with direct ties to their principals in the US. There's a current case about an entrepreneur who purchased a number of second hand machines from a large local bank only to be accused of piracy by Microsoft SA because of Windows license transfer issues.
      • Open Source is proving a very attractive option for companies here who have to deal with a fluctuating and unfavorable exchange rate with the US Dollar. Software that costs $100 must be multiplied by roughly 14 to get the price in local currency - a highly depressing state of affairs since the Economist's [] Burgernomics method reckons the Rand should be around 4,5 to the Dollar. As a result, South Africa has some of the largest Linux installations in the world in some sectors. Microsoft costs too much and the authorities rightly don't like the idea of revenue leaving the country when perfectly acceptable free alternatives exist.
      • There is more than enough education here to do simple things like compiling the kernel. A couple of the FreeBSD core maintenance team are South African (hi Neil :) and the editor of one of the most respected business/computer magazines compiled his Linux kernel for an upcoming feature [].
      • You most certainly can NOT find "full streets of pirated software stores" in South Africa. Maybe the odd flea market operator, but nearly all retailers are extremely careful because of the ever-present threat from the BSA.
  • Dude, Hemos... learn to spell.

    There are plenty of reasons to do this, the best reason would be to stop looking like an idiot. Professionalism not only involves mastering a clever plan, but also taking care of all the little details. Another reason why it's important to spell things correctly is to find proper search results, or grep matches.

    There are plenty of other idiots out there, you don't need to enlarge their ranks:
    linnux []
    Slahdot [] - Number of visits: 310481 (Since 09-23-2000)
    slahsdot []
    Naspter []
    Mircosoft []

  • You know, I sometimes wonder if copying is really immoral, or if we have been brought up to think so.

    Limited protections against copying in a western, capitalistic society makes sense; you want to protect new ventures by providing them with protections against their work being taken and sold by a competitor without regards to the development costs.

    However, I wonder if other cultures somewhere do not have this sort of mentality. I just wonder if in some societies and cultures, if one person would be considered immoral for wanting more rights to something they took part in making than everyone else?

    I don't know the answer, I'm just curious of other's insights.
  • A discussion is on the same website here [] I Read through a few of the discussions. Most of them would be better than 5:Insightful. And maybe people would copy a few of them here :-)
  • Well, only two typos in this post. First, it is "pushes," not "pushs." Secondly, you confused "than" with "then." Of course, nobody really cares in the long run... Anyways...

    I'm glad to see more and more countries embracing open source software. Although many Americans have no problem shelling out $100 for WindozeXP (I certainly do, that is why don't), it is simply infeasable for someone living in a countries with average weekly salaries in the tens of dollars. Of course, these people won't be buying the computer for themselves. Rather, besides government agencies, the only computers would probably be in community "computer centers." With linux, it is not hard to localize a system to a country, and large-scale multi-user systems would not be so hard to manage.
  • The use of open source in the 3rd/2nd world is one way to get around licensing costs - at least more honest then pirating.
    Shouldn't that read

    at least more honest than licensing

  • South Africa hasn't had a NAZI government in a few years now... oh wait
  • First apartheid, now this.

    Yes Folks, it's South Africa, with a History of Good Ideas!
    • I think you'll find the good old USA had a system of aparteid right up until the 1960s! Some would say current drug laws etc are in fact defacto aparteid. And then there was slavery before that...

      Australia also had aparteid, and the Europeans basically invented slave trading. While the Arabs currently carry on this fine tradition in Southern Sudan.

      I'm not defending South African aparteid, but lets not rewrite history "BlackHawkDown" [] style, and pretend it was only them!

      • Then why did you put the word "wrong!!" in the subject line? Just because other countries had systems of apartheid doesn't invalidate what the first poster said.

        The difference between South Africa and the rest of the countries is they made a concentrated effort to remove it years ago, while up until recently South Africa still followed this barbaric practice. South Africa's system was also was a lot more pervasive than in either the US or Australia.
        • Just because other countries had systems of apartheid doesn't invalidate what the first poster said.

          Yes, it does. You should be aware, that the government of South Africa changed, that means that now the government is made of people that never were supporting apartheid. So its wrong to make a sort of link between the badness of apartheid and using open source.

          I'm from Germany for example and I would be really angry if you would call me "Nazi" just because long time ago the german government was made of Nazis, but that was long before I was born. So its just wrong to link the actual decision with history.

          Speaking of history: I don't know if you ever visited South Africa. I did, several times and also in times where they had apartheid. But I didn't see suffering black people even then, because there were none. TV reports made us think that the black and the withe people of South Africa were sort of "hating" each other and that there was practically one side of the road for blacks and one for whites. The reality showed different to me, they just lived on the same place, but with little interaction. The "worst" thing I noticed on my trip was a sign on a beach that said "for whites only".

          No, I don't want to defend apartheit, but people should be aware, that the really bad thing that the South African government did was that they put apartheid to their laws. Apartheid in a form of keeping distance to members of another culture always existed because it exists in the head of the people. Looking around to "multicultural states" like Afghanistan or Israel/Palaestina shows me that it still exists everywhere.

          And yes I'm happy that South Africa is going for open source. It will help them to save money and it will teach them to use their brains and that's much more worthy than saving money.

        • Actually, the original poster said the S.A. invented apartheid. It didn't, he was wrong on that point. IIRC, Canada still has apartheid. Just slightly, though.

          Canadian Indians have certain rights that non-indians don't have. Indians can hunt out of season, they don't need to get a gun licence. Until recently there were laws that applied to Indians that didn't apply to non-indians (Recently being the last 20 years) there may well still be.. but I don't recall at the moment. I seem to remember the Indian Act, 1986, being the last Act of Parliament concerning Indians.
    • And here we have Burgundy Advocate, with a history of sucking shit out of my ass.
  • by WIAKywbfatw ( 307557 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @01:50AM (#2960301) Journal
    (Before you right this off as a troll, please read on and think about how different your lifestyle is from that of the majority of the people in the world, who have no access to a telephone line, let alone the internet.)

    OK, it's a no-brainer that open source software would be a good fit for governments that, in many cases, have problems feeding, clothing and housing their populations.*

    But how, practically is this achievable on anything other than an administrative level? Running Linux and Star Office rather than Microsoft Windows and Office and employing sysadmins with the relative skills is all doable in the halls of power but how can open source be brought to the people?

    In countries where many rural areas lack running water, let alone electricity, is it realistic to hope that the open source movement can help the common man?

    OK, so a little off the government's licensing costs can't hurt but will it really make a meaningful difference? Not to Joe Average it won't.

    If there was some way of getting cheap (second hand?) no-thrills PCs to local schools in a developing country then I think open source software could make a difference but, for all sorts of reasons, this just isn't practical.

    For one thing, even open source software requires support (and so does the hardware it runs on). You might find all the support you need online but someone who lives miles from the nearest telephone is going to find it a little harder.

    I'd love it for it to be possible, but it's not. The real world just doesn't work that way.

    In my humble opinion, hoping for open source software to take off in the developing world before it happens in the developed world is a pipe dream.

    (* No, I don't put South Africa in this category. Thanks to it's mineral riches, it's one of the few countries in Africa that can stand on its own two feet. It's a pity that the interest payments alone on crippling debt stops other african nations from being so self-sufficient, but that's another story.)
    • by Anonymous Coward
      OK, I am South African, and I think that this is great!!

      You are absolutely right - promoting Open Source initially will not affect the average man on the street (most of whom are either unemployed or live below the poverty line)

      It will also not make much of a difference to corporates who are pirating software left and right - however it might make them think.

      The real issue is that if we can save ZAR63m (approx US$5.5m) (IIRC this was the amount quoted) then we can use this to build low-cost housing (@ approx R5 000-10 000 each) - an extra 6300 houses will help immensely!!

      We could also use this to reduce foreigh debt - thus saving interest payments into the future - strengthening the economy and providing more money for housing, education, etc.

      So although the average man-on-the-street will not see Linux desktops in his immediate future, he might see a house with running water and live Electricity - a huge improvement on people living on the streets, and burning candles/parrafin for light and heat/cooking.

      Food for thought!!

      David R
    • by Twylite ( 234238 ) <twylite AT crypt DOT co DOT za> on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @04:33AM (#2960530) Homepage

      South Africa is fairly unique amongst developing (esp. African) nations. We have an excellent infrastructure for transportation and communication in most parts of the country. While many people do not have their own telephone lines, there are ongoing projects to remedy this situation.

      But far more interesting is the fact that these are a huge number of people living in ghetto-type conditions with no basic services, who are using the cellular networks to communicate. This goes to show that there is money and intent available for electronic communication.

      There are several existing projects to get PCs into underdeveloped schools. In fact the hardware side of the projects is quite successful, but they are struggling because of the cost of software and the lack of teachers with computer experience. Linux is not suitable in such environments until it is easy to install and administer with little or no experience.

      One of SA's biggest barriers to bringing "computing to the masses" is the commercial attitude: SA is extremely loyal to Microsoft, and to leading-edge technology. Technology more than a couple of years old becomes nearly impossible to get. Few wholesalers stock chips under a Celeron/Duron 800, or RAM chips less than 128Mb. They perceive that there is money to be made from companies, and not from supplying cheaper hardware to more "charatible" causes.

      SA suffers from a "nothing but the best" syndrome, which affects development. It is generally unacceptable to provide second-class solutions as an interim measure while working on a long-term solution. This means that, for example, a project to get computers into schools will involve building a secure building for the computers (many poor schools are prefab or have degraded buildings), and the provision of networked multimedia computers.

      Having said this, it is obviously not the way to go. There needs to be an attitude change and an acceptance of older technology, alternative technology or interim solutions.

      Actually the availability of communications is not important in the use of computing in developing nations. Computers can be used "offline" as teaching aids, and this is probably where investment should be targetted. Education standards in SA are dropping, there is a massive adult illiteracy rate, and computing skills (required in many industries) are lacking.

      An obvious and useful proposal would be to develop and mass produce cheap hardware which can run OpenSource software, and start developing (locally) teaching aids in all national languages (we have 11 of them :

      Incidently ... the mining sector only accounted for 6% of GDP in 1999 ( []), Tourism for 4% and agriculture for 4%. What makes SA an economic power in Africa is its NON-reliance on mineral resources.

    • But how, practically is this achievable on anything other than an administrative level? Running Linux and Star Office rather than Microsoft Windows and Office and employing sysadmins with the relative skills is all doable in the halls of power but how can open source be brought to the people?

      The trickle-down effect is how. If it's policy that OSS be used in government offices, that policy then permeates to schools, libraries, police and armed forces, hospitals, and all manner of government and semi-government infrastructure. Also, anyone who wants to exchange documents with the government needs to do so in open and accessible formats, ruling out MS-Word, MS-Excel and similar proprietary formats (are there any other word processors or spreadsheets left which still use closed formats?) Get rid of the need to create and read those proprietary file formats and you remove the single largest incentive for license evasion*. OK so that may not be a huge number of people, but does become a significant proportion of those people who have any contact with computers.

      * License evasion kinda sounds like tax evasion, which many people feel is a soft and victimless crime, just like copying copyrighted software. How about we use that instead of the harsher, more violent "piracy", eh?

    • >Thanks to it's mineral riches, it's one of the >few countries in Africa

      actually much of western africa has large mineral wealth (Angola, DRC, Nigeria).

      these minerals (esp diamonds) only fuel wars, they do not bring prosperity.
    • The infrastructure to bring pirated CD's into even the most remote parts of the world is clearly present, the same path is available to OS software.
      There is indeed a feeling in many of the lesser developed countries that anything offered to them what is less than the best (=most expensive) is another way of the West to stay ahead.

      It is papers like the one we discuss that could possibly break this foolish notation in the case of OS.
      The resources and intellect to use and expand on OS is certainly available, it only needs to become *Sexy*

    • I hate the idea that piss-poor countries are spending some of their money on software licenses. That money could be used for the many things you mention (running water, electricity) or fighting AIDS or malaria. The 'shareholder value' of the richest is obviously more important than the lives of the poor. No wonder software piracy is widespread in poor countries.

      But how, practically is this achievable on anything other than an administrative level? Running Linux and Star Office rather than Microsoft Windows and Office and employing sysadmins with the relative skills is all doable in the halls of power but how can open source be brought to the people?

      In the poorest countries, the computers are used mainly in the 'halls of power'. Switching to open source is much easier if the entire government has less PC:s than an average US School.

      A few years ago UK donated some PC:s to the police in a small West African country that was just starting to recover from a civil war. They would have preferred chairs, desks or pencils, as the police station had no electricity.

      A friend of mine visited a university in Mocambique (sp?) a few years ago. There were three computers in an university of several thousand students.

      OK, so a little off the government's licensing costs can't hurt but will it really make a meaningful difference? Not to Joe Average it won't

      The poorest countries have an education and health budget of the order a few USD per capita. Any difference is important when playing with very small budgets. Savings of 10k$ could mean vaccinating thousands of kids against some common disease, saving a few hundred lives. Or spending that 10k$ in condoms or education might save a few hundred people from AIDS. This would be a small difference, but it is human lives we are talking about.

      Statistically, the life of Joe Average might be meaningless. However, Joe Average would hardly agree with that.

      For one thing, even open source software requires support (and so does the hardware it runs on). You might find all the support you need online but someone who lives miles from the nearest telephone is going to find it a little harder.

      If you live miles from the nearest phone, getting online for support is just as feasible as calling the "insert-company-here" helpdesk, and hearing that you have to download the latest driver/patch from their Flash-ridden homepage. You have to rely on local documentation and user manuals, and these are just as crappy on both commercial and open source.

  • Since when does Slashdot cover this open-source stuff? I, for one, am appalled by this editorial mischief.
  • s/pirating/copyright infringement/g;
  • from []

    Software has no intrinsic value. The value it has is that which is perceived by the user. Is a copy of Windows XP worth a family of four not eating for a month? Not to me... Is a copy of Microsoft Office worth two families of four not eating for a month? Not to me... Proprietary software is about revenue generation, not capability. Furthermore, there is nothing which says free software cannot co-exist with proprietary. If a particular capability requires proprietary, by all means, get a copy. But, does every capability require proprietary software? Certainly not.

    The will and determination of the South African people has survived much greater hardship than software bugs with no answers, or support. The question to ask yourself here is: Will the South African Government be willing to pay $120USD per incident for software bugs that will likely still have no answer? In my experience, if there is a solution it is, "upgrade to the latest version for another $199USD."

    The greater good is that which serves the most people. If you can make a case for proprietary that serves more people, then that's what you should do. However, I do not think that is possible, given the freedom (from corporate America) inherent in free and open source software.

    Thank you for the opportunity to contribute...

  • Now, if South African immigrations (HomeAffairs) would stop throwing out all the professionals in the name of "Affirmative Action" (Read Aparthaid, but the other way around) perhaps the country could defeat the current trend of the Southern Sahara African countries.

    It's a lovely country (South Africa), but they have to stop pointing the finger of blame for everything that goes wrong back to the pre '90's and start understanding that skin colour -really- doesn't make a difference.

  • This same country has insisted [] for a while, that AIDS (the disease) is not caused by the HIV (the virus) -- contrary to the established opinion world over.

    So, now they claim "Open Source" is better, huh? Well, they are just lunatics down there...

  • Does Linux support the South African language of clicks and whistles? clickclickbeeptapclurk 'hello world' beepbeeptapclurkclickclick! Spell Checker: 'hello world' to 'clickbeepbeeptapclurkclurkclick'
  • Salt (Score:2, Funny)

    NaCl: Gov't of South Africa Pushes Open Source

    Alright, who else read this title and wondered why South Africa was taking orders from a dipole molecule? My font makes a capitol I look like a lowercase l. I need to get some sleep...
  • The first & most concrete recommendation in this report is:

    1. Make Open Standards a non-negotiable base for ICT in the Public Sector.

    This is interesting, because it stops tie-in to one company - without having to mandate open source. So, no use of MS Word for publishing documents ...

    However, if you're proposing to use an open standard for e.g. word processing, what do you choose? HTML is fine for publishing, RTF is too basic for complex documents. Is there actually an open, widely accepted WP standard which you could use? Or are they only mandating open standards for publication and not for internal use (given that the report was written in Word this is possible)?
  • As an ex-South African, I feel I'm qualified to say that "digital divide" is a good euphamism for "corruption".

    Open source isn't going to help South Africa out of the dirt--not in the slightest teeny way. See, in South Africa, on the one hand you've got extremely rich people, or people just getting by (still mostly white, but the tide seems to be turning), who have all their computers and software, pirated or no, internet access, the whole toot. Try or #chknhd or something if you don't believe me.

    On the other hand you've got about 15 or 20 million other people, mostly still black, who have absolutely nothing. Mostly, they keep having absolutely nothing, living their joyous lives in their tin shacks and stealing car batteries to power their TVs because certain rich people don't want to be unrich, and keep those strings a-pulling to make sure that the status quo is maintained. And don't think that those rich people are all South African. Three US corporations (sadly I can't quote which ones) make more money every year than the entire .za GDP. Usian corporations blatantly play the .za market and milk it for all it's worth (no surprise there, although no anti-Usianism is intended), and the South African corporations are about as pure as the undriven yellow snow in comparison if you get my drift.

    Open source? Who cares? The only people who can use it at the moment or for the forseeable future are the people who are already forking out R20,000 or more for a new computer every year anyway.

  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2002 @06:27AM (#2960686) Homepage Journal
    Some of you say it's impossible to promote opensource without Internet access. In my opinion it's not their major problem.

    Once I saw a documentary about SUN donating an UNIX workstation to an Africa country(don't recall which one, but it's so under-developed) for educational research. The major problem they've got is not being able to connect to internet, their problem is to get steady supply of electricity to boot up the workstation. :)

    But the power of desperate users is unlimited! To solve the problem, they built a dynamo from a bicycle. It's bizarre to see how they use the workstation - someone is bicycling very hard while the operator types very very fast(No X, just CLI, sorry!).

    I've never complaint my internet connection since. :D

    (I'm also aware that South Africa is not like the other under-developed countries in Africa, just a thought. ^_^)
  • From the document (my emphasis):
    However, government action cannot be the sole objective. Various people and institutions in South Africa, including small and large companies, are already using open software products (notably Linux and associated software tools) precisely because they already have the freedom to do so rather than because they have been prompted by government policy.
    The bare minimum is to ensure that this freedom is not curtailed by introduction of inappropriate policy.
    Yes! That's all we ask!
  • While it may take 5 to 10 years for changes like this to start having an effect. More programmers more practical applications. Free Software grows with the user base (and programmer base).

    I think we should be asking what we can do to help. You could say invest in this process.

    For instance should we through the FSF or another organization make sure that the local languages are supported and/or that applications that make sense to local people are written. We could also put efforts behind developing an open hardware slandered for development.

    So what could/should we be doing to help/invest in this process?
  • The conclusion was predictable, I suppose. But their explanations are interesting:

    • The trade-off between the proprietary and open approaches amounts to choosing between relying on foreign skills and developing local skills. The proprietary approach requires higher up-front costs and, in many cases, higher long-term costs. The open approach requires a much lower up-front cost (anywhere from zero, to the cost of buying a CD, to avoid a slow Internet download), but requires a bigger investment in a local skills base to enable local software development.

    • In terms of a national strategy, the choice is clear.

      If South Africa chooses the proprietary route, the cost in many cases will be higher, and much of the expenditure goes out of the country. The country becomes dependent on foreign companies for much of our technological requirements, and hostage to currency fluctuations.

      If South Africa chooses the open route, the cost will often be lower, and much of the cost will remain in the country. Further, South Africa can break dependence on foreign companies, and potentially become a player in the world software development and software services markets.

  • The report's section on Intellectual Property Issues [] is quite good. A bit blunt, but perhaps that's to be commended. Some highlights:
    • "These days it is very difficult to write any major piece of software that does not infringe on a number of silly patents that have so far been granted in the US."
    • "Patents should not be granted on software and algorithms"
  • They also heartily approve when the students explain their plans to design a community resource for guided access to government Web sites. The one concern the students have is that they are often unable to read files downloaded from government sites. The problematic files are in a format that requires proprietary software to read.

    Man...didn't you just HATE when you were in high school and you couldn't find a community resource for guided access to government Web site, and that all the files you downloaded were in some strange proprietary format? Man that sucked. I can just see it now - "So, you really think school kids will be building national IT infrastructure for us?" "Sure, sure! Maybe we can get pizza parlor managers and goat herders in on it too!" "Suhweet!"

  • Much like they used to do here, if Microsoft realizes that people will start using open source, they'll turn off WPA, give away copies, etc.
  • If they need Open Source software, then surely they can help us develop it as well. I'm sure there are folks in the US who would pay SA's for their services of furthering various projects. Then, that's money into their economy which can be used for further improvements.

Each honest calling, each walk of life, has its own elite, its own aristocracy based on excellence of performance. -- James Bryant Conant