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Microsoft Thinks Africa Doesn't Need Free Software

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  • by Sir Joltalot (66097) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:29AM (#13833495) Homepage
    In many cases, what they need is food, clean drinking water, and shelter. Let's get those bases covered before we start doling out the software, shall we?
    • by BlueCodeWarrior (638065) <steevk@gmail.com> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:32AM (#13833511) Homepage
      You could argue that the people of Africa may not, but the governments may.

      We wouldn't want all of that aid money to be spent on expensive software to create the country's infrastructure when it could just be free in both senses of the word.

      Just playing devil's advocate.
      • With the tens (or hundreds of millions) of aid money the said governments have stashed away (instead of using it to build basic infrastructure), they could easily afford a few licences of SuSE...

        (playing devil's advocate as well ;) )

        That being said, there is indeed no reason to pay for a resource when a free equivalent is available.

        And to further debunk the MS argument, there are several ongoing efforts where NGOs are "on the field" as well with free software to provide with the basic expertise to help get
      • I would highly suggest people go watch Hotel Rwanda and then tell me that free software is going to fix the problems in the society and government in the underdeveloped nations in Africa. And if you don't like movies based on real life, maybe just reading some history would help. It is amazing that anyone has the balls to think that software is so fucking great it is going to solve the all problems in the world. Get a clue. I am sure a Mac with OSX, AMD system with Linux, or WindowsXP on an Intel box i
        • Well, giving them access to free software, giving them access to technology, giving them access to outside ideas. Yeah, I think that would benefit them greatly. They need some kind of sustainable life, and turning them into an American sponsored wellfare state is not going to do this. They are going to have to learn to do this themselves, and maybe exposure to more outside ideas might actually get them thinking on how to solve things for themselves.
        • I would posit a counterpoint, subsistance farmers in India using internet terminals to check market prices, weather forcasts, etc to determine when to plant and harvest their crops and where to take them. The poor people of the world probably don't need access to Holywood Insider, or even downloadable video, but access to information can be a very powerfull tool, whether the recipients are rich or poor.
        • by LDoggg_ (659725) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @10:39AM (#13836402) Homepage
          Ok, so life sucks in Africa, therefore its ok for MS to stick to them a little more?

          Of course putting a linux box in a hut without electricity isn't going to make anyone's life better.
          I would like to help as many people as possible, but I am neither a diamond company CEO nor the head of a major oil conglomerate. Just an IT person like many of the other people here.

          I do think that the places in africa (or any other continent for that matter) that are developed and stable enough to sustain a computer lab could be helped with open source software. It won't have the same effect as overthrowing the area's warlord or sending truckloads of food to a famished area, but its not a bad thing to want to help people in areas of our own expertise.
        • by DjReagan (143826) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @10:44AM (#13836471)
          A friend of mine was recently at a cell phone services conference in Canada, and told me the following story of some guy he met there:

          [snip] His name is Bukeni Waruzi and when I first spoke to him I was the same old ignorant guy I normally am... his english isn't so great and so I assumed that whatever he had to say wasn't really worth my effort in listening to... but I listened anyway and this amazing story unfolded.

          Bukini lives in the Congo (I think) and, from what I gather, works to demobilise child soldiers in the DRC and deals with crimes against human rights... because of his odd grasp of english (he speaks like a million languages!) his story unfolds in a way you wouldn't expect and, like many others at the conference, I found myself thinking "ok, so how does this guy have ANYTHING to do with mobile phones?"... but it turns out he's giving cellphones to one individual in each of these villages (that don't even necessarily have a stable electricity source) so that any human rights violations can be reported to that person who will in turn report them to the authorities who up until now have turned a blind eye by saying "we didn't know that was happening". [/snip]

          So yes, modern technology does have a frontline role in solving problems of war, genocide and human rights in developing nations. Just because you can't think of how these technologies can help, doesn't mean you are right.

    • by countach (534280) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:34AM (#13833523)
      >In many cases, what they need is food, clean drinking water, and shelter. Let's get
      >those bases covered before we start doling out the software, shall we?

      Sure they need food. But to feed themselves they need a competitive modern economy. To get that, computers can help.

      • by eericson (103272) <{harlequin} {at} {earthlink.net}> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:45AM (#13833577) Homepage
        Actually, what they really need now is a stable agrarian economy. Once they've got a handle on that, we'll talk information age.
        • by countach (534280) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:47AM (#13833583)
          Yeah, and how are they going to do that without western technology like big tractors, combine harvesters, bio technology etc etc? And how do you buy that without foreign currency? And how do you get foreign currency without a modern trading economy?

          • How did we do it before the advent of the internal combustion engine? Oh, right. horses, mules, oxen. The good thing about farming is that it doesn't have to be high tech. Plants don't care if their soil was tilled by a tractor with 48 inch rims, or by a horse pulling a plow.
        • by penix1 (722987) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:50AM (#13833591) Homepage
          First you have to overcome Monsento's patented grain. Good luck there...

          B.
    • Well there are still the administrative offices and hospitals which could really benefit from software .
      Other than that .. We really need to get the world banks to drop the debt
    • by killjoe (766577) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:53AM (#13833603)
      This is the typical American response. Apparently Americans believe everybody in africa is starving, has no water and is living outside.

      Let me be the first one to tell you that there are people in africa who have have houses, clean water and food. Furthermore there are people in America who have no clean water, no food and live outside.

      So people in Africa need computers, they need industry, they need commerce, they need an economy. WIthout those they will never get enough food for everybody. Of course not everybody will be fed, just like in America not everybody is fed, but you can't wait till everybody has enough food to start your economy.
  • ... Nice (Score:4, Insightful)

    by _tognus (903491) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:30AM (#13833501)
    According to MS, while you can give people free software or computers, they won't have the expertise to use it."

    Well, you've got to start somewhere.
    • Re:... Nice (Score:4, Interesting)

      by surprise_audit (575743) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:13AM (#13833690)
      According to MS, while you can give people free software or computers, they won't have the expertise to use it."

      Personally, I think if that statement is true, it would still be true if the word "free" is struck out:

      According to MS, while you can give people software or computers, they won't have the expertise to use it."

      Of course, that would be Microsoft shooting themselves in the foot, but that'll *never* happen, will it??

    • The article implies an admission by MS that F/OSS solutions are less expensive. That's something. However, though the cost of software in the developing world really is an important, it significantly less so when compared to the importance of freedom and independence. And that is something they would lose by getting tangled into MS' politics of proprietary protocols and formats.

      And while, Free (as in Freedom or Independence) is helped along by Free or Open Source Software, open protocols and data format

  • Training (Score:5, Insightful)

    by countach (534280) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:32AM (#13833509)
    Maybe they do need training, but once a few of them are trained, they could train others, and so on and on. Plus, they are smart people, I'm sure they are quite capable of teaching themselves.
    • Re:Training (Score:4, Interesting)

      by robbyjo (315601) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:36AM (#13833536) Homepage
      This is exactly where Open Source community should come in and fill the gap and jumpstart the whole thing. The only thing they need is just will power... and perhaps some access to the internet... which perhaps is not available in most areas....
    • Re:Training (Score:3, Insightful)

      by julesh (229690)
      Also note that by the average salary quoted in the article, the average African could more easily afford to take 6 months off work to learn how to use open source software than pay for Windows.
  • by Z00L00K (682162) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:34AM (#13833525) Homepage
    There are areas in Africa where the basic needs aren't covered. (housing, drinking water etc) but there are also areas that actually aren't that poor. Africa is a big continent! The point is that free software is an alternative even in Africa.

    If anything - this shows the level of stupidity at Microsoft.

  • by axonal (732578) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:35AM (#13833527)
    They seem to know how to use computers already! Excuse me while I go fax my banking information to the attorney of an imprisoned Prince whose country recently went into anarchy, I need to help transfer funds for him!
  • Errr? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Solra Bizna (716281) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:36AM (#13833529) Homepage Journal

    Well, sure, if you give them the software for free they might lack the expertise to use it.

    But if you charge them for it instead, then you've gotten a tiny amount of cash, they've lost (~)months of their savings, and they STILL lack the expertise to use it!

    -:sigma.SB

    P.S. Interesting. Firefox "parses" </?P> tags. :S

    • But if you charge them for it instead, then you've gotten a tiny amount of cash, they've lost (~)months of their savings, and they STILL lack the expertise to use it!

      Which in my experience, really, is exactly what happens in the first world...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:37AM (#13833537)
    Let's just wait for the flood of misinformed replies flooding in here on Slashdot like they do every time a story about Africa is posted. I expect to see many stupid posts by slashdotters arguing "what's the use for computers if you don't have food?"

    Newsflash: Most Africans do not live in huts on the savannah.

    They live in cities and towns. They have access to technology. They're just as smart as you and I.

    While I did attend a few hours of BASIC training way back in the dark ages of computing, I learned most of it myself by just having access to my computer. These days, computers are (more) user friendly so the story just strikes me as being stupid bordering to racist.

    • Newsflash: Most Africans do not live in huts on the savannah.

      No shit, Sherlock. And most Americans don't wear cowboy hats and rustle cattle. And most Australians don't hop around in the pouch of a kangaroo. What's your fucking point?

      • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @04:43AM (#13834107) Homepage Journal
        ... that many people here in /. very often show a complete lack of understanding of the African continent.

        People may have their stereotypes about the US, but I think roughly are better informed about how the US really is (we would not assume that having computers or access to technology is an imposibility for most USians) than USians are about Africa.

        Just check this thread later. The comment "but they need food/medicine/whatever first" will inevitably show up.
    • In all fairness, there is some truth to what people say. Africa is the least urbanized continent in the world, at around 30-40%. I agree plenty of people in Africa don't live in huts or in the desert. But I am still pretty sure that computers are a low priority in the typical resident of Africa's life.

      Africans throghout the contininent have a lot of problems, and only the very privledged (relatively) can both have access to computers and use them to inrich their lives. Here are some figures about africa fro
  • uhm yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tepzepi (854536) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:37AM (#13833540) Homepage
    And by keeping the software expensive you drain resources from training. And its not the case that all africans are computer illiterate. Many, especially the well educated, know damn well how a computer works. I hate this Western arrogance and ignorance, treating Africa like one giant homogenous mess. That's not true. Ok, so we need IT training, but we also need cheap software, roads, medical infrastructure, improved schooling, decent terms of trade, and much much more. Not because we're a basketcase, but because the west screwed us over. an angry african
    • Re:uhm yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by bm_luethke (253362) <luethkeb@cREDHATomcast.net minus distro> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:55AM (#13833831)
      Not to mention that even if they are rural that doesn't necessarily mean uneducated. Maybe not "worldly" or familiar with pop culture and current slang, but that isn't raelly education.

      I have a very small hadful of relatives that have no electricity and no running water. They live in the mountains of East Tennessee (Appalachia). But, they are far from uneducated. While they are not too up on modern stuff - theater, pop culture, music, and generally "new" stuff I would bet on them for reading, math, and history over the average "educated" person in any western world (not the top, but the average). It may not be hard to beat me (see my sig), but they are quite good at the basics and thier idea of basics are higher than the vast majority of high schools.

      All of them have homemade generators, water purification systems, a good personal library (no TV means lots of reading), and working vehicles (including farming stuff) that they totally maintain themselves. They have a pretty good understanding of biology and botany - better than quite a few "educated" people I've known. In short, they are humans - just as smart as anyone else just not educated in the same way we are. In fact, given that they do not have access to alot of our non-brain usage past times they seem to be beter adaptable. They understand advanced Comp Sci algorithms MUCH faster than my other non-CS friends, they find uses for them that would never occur to me, and many other things. They interact with the "modern" world quite a bit - a few of them electricity is just a few hunderd yards away (the terrain precludes them from getting it though), they are not backwards. If you ever met them you wouldn't know, other than they don't really know much about survivor, Microsoft, or other popular culture bits. However they are very knowledgable about things that are covered in periodicals, newspapers, and other written material - much more than the standard American.

      I have little to no experience with rural Africans, in high school I had a friend from Ghana and in college a person from Nigeria - both were amongst the most intelligent and educated I've ever known. But, given that humans tend to be, well, humans, I would expect that the vast majority are fairly intelligent and not far from my relatives. Maybe not educated from a perspective of a city person, but then in many ways better than those from the city (just as a country person wouldn't get along in a city, the city person doesn't really get along in the country either - they are just different).
      • by mks113 (208282)
        There are many issues to be worked out here. I was on the main road across the country last week, however it was tortuously rough pavement with car-eating potholes.

        There is a huge unemployed population here. Most businesses employ more people than they need. You go to the greengrocers in the city and someone will push your cart, select the best produce, and carry your bags to your car -- for the quarter tip you give them -- which is likely what they work for.

        The two people we employ in our house went thr
    • Re:uhm yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Patrik_AKA_RedX (624423) <patrik@vanostaeyen.gmail@com> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @03:14AM (#13833878) Journal
      I hate this Western arrogance and ignorance, treating Africa like one giant homogenous mess.
      The charity-organisation are to blame for that. They've been presenting Africa as a giant homogenous mess instead of the diverse continent it is.
  • Interpretation (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dtfinch (661405) * on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:37AM (#13833543) Journal
    Microsoft will see less profit if Africa uses competing software.
  • by c0l0 (826165) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:43AM (#13833571) Homepage
    Nestle's CEO states that "Africa does not need bread and water, but Butterfinger and Nescafe".
    • Nestle (Score:3, Informative)

      by sita (71217)
      Nestle's CEO states that "Africa does not need bread and water, but Butterfinger and Nescafe".

      You'd be surprised that in a region, West Africa, which produces a hell of lot of coffe and has a coffe culture which is on par with Italian coffe, "coffe" surprisingly often means Nescafé.

      In a region where money is scarce and time and coffe beans are plenty, people drink Nescafé. It makes your head spin.
  • by mtec (572168) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:44AM (#13833574)
    but you can't make them think?

    Shame on you MS!
  • by wan-fu (746576) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:45AM (#13833578)
    RTFA. It's about how even after giving the people the software, it's not the important part, the training is and how Microsoft is spending efforts on training the people in Africa to use information technology. It's not about how Microsoft hates Africans or anything like that. It's not about how Microsoft is trying to exploit poor Africans by selling them software. It's simply bringing up the surprising fact that the primary barrier in Africa isn't the cost (though cost is a barrier), it's the fact that the people need training that is the main barrier to adoption according to MS. Considering how often people complain about FUD, it's quite annoying to see it from the /. crowd as well.
    • by jotaeleemeese (303437) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @05:06AM (#13834182) Homepage Journal
      Training without infrastrucutre is worth squat.

      The initial barrier of entry is the cost of the infrastructure, and nowadays the software (the commercial one I mean) is perhaps the biggest cost of having a working computer.

      This is even more true if you consider that you can have preety cutting edge machines from a computational point of view in old hardware with the lastest FLOSS software.

      Assuming the cost of training is the same no matter what software you use (I will ignore the wide availability of training, help and advice in the FLOSS world) then at the end all goes down to cost.

      If you use second hand hardware (the most likely situation if you are trying to introduce computing in a poor country) then you are only faced with the cost of which software to use.

      And this makes it a no brainer, you can get a FLOSS OS, with any kind of application you can think of for $0. Windows (or MacOS, when it shows up for generic x86 boxes) will set you a substantial amount of money.

      When you realize that very often the price of one license of WIndows is the equivalent to one month salary of a trianed person in some countries, then the argument of this individual (and by extension yours) collapses like a house of cards.

      Why should anybody spend money in commercial software when that money could be better spent in paying for the training you will obviously need?

      To say that this guy's argument is stupid, self serving and contradictory in the view of the existence of FLOSS is an obious understament.

  • Self Determination (Score:5, Insightful)

    by femto (459605) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:50AM (#13833590) Homepage
    > ...they won't have the expertise to use it.

    Microsoft still doesn't get free software. Free software isn't about the cost, it's about the freedom. Consequently the MS rep is right when he says costs isn't the major issue, and his arguments about expertise strengthen the position of free software.

    Free software gives Africans a better chance of learning how to use software and build a local industry modifying it.

    I bet the next generation of African mechanics already spend their days under the bonnet of any car they can get access to. These are the people who will own small mechanics business in tomorrow's Africa. Tough luck if your car is a Microsoft car with the bonnet welded shut.

    Microsoft's aim is to keep Africa dependent on Microsoft.

    Some people are using the 'give them food before computers' argument. The philosophy behind free software is larger than computer software. It's about the abilityto determine your own course in life. I'm sure Monsanto is using the same arguments as Microsoft about the sterile seed they sell.

  • by dirtsurfer (595452) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @01:52AM (#13833600) Journal
    Just teach them to use bittorrent.
  • I call bullsh*t. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by pimpsoftcom (877143) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:04AM (#13833648) Journal

    My soon to be wife has lived for years in Africa as a exchange student through her church - West africa, not the tourist spots that get cleaned up to look better so they attrract more tourist money - so I know a little something about this.

    Water is a rare resource there. If you get bitten by a bug for example, you wipe the bloody sore on the wall to scratch it because if you use your water for the day on it, you dont drink.

    A person can live - barely - on about 2 bucks american a day for food and basic needs - and no that does not include toothbrushes or soap as they are luxuries - in Africa if they have a home; Unfortunately most dont even have 50 cents american per day.

    It is a fact that electricity is only available in the larger cities if at all, and without electricity you are not going to be able to boot a computer much less use any software on it open source or not. The African people are cunning in the way that they can usually do what it takes to survive - survival of the fittest being a cruel but true thing in the extreme land and political environment and all the civil wars they have gone through - but they can not use electronics without electricity.

    But they do know how to use the tools when they are available. The biggest thing over there - and the one thing every African knows how to use - is the windows based computers at the internet cafes in the larger cities. People walk days just to use them. Saying that they do not have the knowledge to use computers is not only an insult to them and a racist comment in itself, but completely goes against the standing facts that keep Spam filters against Nigerian - yes Nigeria is in Africa - Spam from hitting your inbox.

    My fiance has personaly known some of these africans and talked to them, and do you really think that nigerians would be sending you spam and trying to get money from you if they where not so damn poor with no other option? Sure once it works it may just be greed that keeps them going, but in such a sorry state of existance and in such a poor country if it works and keeps them fed and clothed, what else are they going to do to survive? I am not saying spam is good - its bad and the people who send it have very low to non-existant ethics - but what other choice do some of these people have thanks to companies like microsoft not even wanting to try to help africa be developed enough to be self supporting?

    Microsoft is just splitting hairs and insulting people, as well as lying through there fscking teeth. They have the power to make not only Africa as a developing natuion but the entire world a better place, and they will not do it because they are too damn greedy to think of anybody else but there own profit margins. The funny thing is they say they are against spam, so you would think they would want to help develop africa - and nigeria - enough to allow the spammers alone to have other options. That in itself would make the world a better place.

    • I like the gist of your post, but it sure is irritating to hear someone talk of how 'Africans' are as if all 53 countries and nearly a billion people are all the same. Water is a rare resource everywhere? And every African has gone through civil war you say? Which Africans did your fiance talk to anyway? All of them?

      It's language like that that keeps people ignorant. You could have informed everyone reading about how things are in a specific west African country. At the very least they might have learned t
    • They [Microsoft] have the power to make not only Africa as a developing natuion but the entire world a better place, and they will not do it because they are too damn greedy to think of anybody else but there own profit margins.

      Unlike every other commercial company?

  • by The Mutant (167716) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:12AM (#13833687) Homepage
    on biz, and I see a lot of pirated software in the banks where I'm working on client site.

    I'm against pirating software in general, but with attitudes like this, well let's just say Africans are ok pirating MS software in my book.

    Down in Africa those folks are just doing the best they can with what they got. This attitude that "if they can't pay they don't deserve" is mind boggling. MS could do a lot of good down there, but no.

    On the plus side, I'm seeing lots more banks deploying Open Office on the desktop with Liunx and MySQL on the Enterprise side. This whole controversy will be rendered academic in perhaps ten years.

    Who the hell would accept MS crapware when they've spent the formative years on their careers using Open Source?
    • by Moraelin (679338)
      See, the world doesn't have to be all MS software.

      Look at the car industry for a comparison. Not everyone drives a Ferrari. Precisely _because_ not everyone can afford a Ferrari, and they can't just pirate one, some will go buy a cheaper Ford Fiesta instead.

      Or, and here's the most important part: in some of those countries they'll go buy a locally produced car, creating employment and taxes in their own economy. E.g., if a citizen of Russia can't afford a Ferrari, maybe maybe they can afford a locally produ
  • by danny (2658) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:19AM (#13833718) Homepage
    Check out Windows versus GNU/Linux - an analogy [danny.oz.au]... It's five years old now, but still perfectly relevant.

    Danny.

  • by leereyno (32197) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:31AM (#13833764) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft is saying that because X is true, Y must be false. Well that only works when the two are mutually exclusive. When the two are not then the logic breaks down. In situations like this one, where the two issues are only tangentially related at best, the logic breaks down before it even gets started.

    Aquiring the expertise to know how to use computers is a necessary prerequisite to being able to benefit from computers and the software that they run, regardless of whether that software is free or proprietary. Microsoft is correct in stating that these people would not be able to benefit from free software at this point, but then they're no better equipped to be able to benefit from anything Microsoft has to offer either.

    Listening to Microsoft when it comes to computer software is like asking Ford or GM what brand of car you should buy.

    Lee
  • I am an African (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bjnortier (924257) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:34AM (#13833773)
    Some comments from an African: 1. Anyone heard of Ubuntu? Does that sound like an english word? "Ubuntu" is an ancient African word, meaning "humanity to others". The person driving it (Mark Shuttleworth) is an African and the business he built and sold was developed in Africa. 2. Africa is a big place, don't generalise. Some Africans live on a $1 a day, whereas I live a first-world lifestyle. 3. Microsoft ignores the developing world at its own peril. A true competitor for MS will probably emerge from a developing country, where people and governments are not prepared to pay expensive licenses for functionality they can get for free.
  • by OwlWhacker (758974) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @02:47AM (#13833812) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft has claimed the cost of software is not an important issue in the developing world.

    Just like the cost of food isn't important to those who want to grow up healthy?

    even though he admitted that the average annual salary in the West African country is only $160 (£91).

    Yes, I'm sure that Africans wouldn't mind starving for a few years, so that they can buy Microsoft's software - which I'm sure Microsoft would offer at a discount rate for the first year.

    "It's not about the cost of the software, it's about how you take your expertise to people. We are sharing our expertise, particularly with governments in emerging markets. Cost is not the barrier here -- expertise is," said Holloway.

    Most commendable. My hat is off to Microsoft, having ripped off those who can afford its software, it spends some of the excess on locking poor people into its proprietary solutions.

    If Microsoft was to give everybody in Africa free PCs running the latest version of Windows, what would they do when they had to upgrade? And, if they couldn't afford to upgrade, what good would their expertise in an old, out-dated operating system do?

    Microsoft seems to be getting right back into 'Linux is a cancer!' mode with this textual outburst of desperation.

    The thing is, many Africans have time to spend learning how to use software, but they don't have money to spend buying software. Using Open Source seems the better option, especially when there is a need to keep up with upgrades.
  • Children (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gilesjuk (604902) <[ku.oc.nez] [ta] [senoj.selig]> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @03:28AM (#13833921)
    If you give the computers to the children they will learn it and the perceived difficulty is irrelavent.

    When a child is born it understands no language yet learns one. Windows isn't easy for a complete beginner either, inexperienced computer users ask millions of questions about Windows every day.
  • by tyates (869064) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @04:02AM (#13834006) Homepage
    It's crystal clear that 95% of the people here have not only not been to Africa, but did not even Read The Freakin' Article. Anyway, I have been to Mauritius (island off the coast of Africa) and no, people weren't batting flies off their heads. Developing countries do have a lot of poor people involved in low-wage agriculture struggling to get by, but they also have the beginnings of a professional class, the people who work in offices and run the governments, banks, etc. They all have computers, if not in their desks then in their offices, and those computers run software. But what, as Microsoft says, they do not have is enough people to maintain those computers, hence the lack of expertise it cites. Which brings up a good point that if you gave computers running Linux to people, they would have a very hard time maintaining it, because if the Microsoft expertise isn't there, then the Linux expertise definitely won't be there, because it's rarer. Scarce expertise may push people away from diverse OSs and towards the market leader (Microsoft).

    So there's some interesting stuff worth discussing if people bother to RTFA before they post "Bill Gates doesn't care about African people" or whatever all the junk was I had to wade through while I was trying to spend my last mod point.
    • Well, this is akin to the "give a man a fish or teach a man to fish" argument. I think that there is a scarcity of Microsoft expertise in Mauritius too, causing it to be too expensive anyway, let alone payed-for Linux expertise.

      But here's the difference: giving third-world countries Microsoft is "giving them a fish" because it is closed. Giving third-world countries Free alternatives is "teaching them to fish", because it's Open. Just as it initially costs more to teach fishing than to give away fish, s
    • I'm not so sure Tristan. I worked in Africa, in the Cote d'Ivoire (Ivory Coast) in the fall of 1995 on a project to connect the African Development Bank to the Internet (384kbps vsat link). Okay the Ivory Coast has suffered some instability of late but in the main cities the people were quite computer litterate and well educated thanks to a French system their former "colonial masters" imposed on them.

      At the time there was a lot of interest in Linux from the bank staff and some people I met from Africom - a
    • Bill Gates doesn't care about African people, or US people, or Europiens or anyone who is not whole heartedly feeding his corporate empire. I wasn't aware that this was still an argument.

      "article is about lack of expertise"

      The article is pointless. Building a countries infrastructure on proprietary software is dumb enough. Building a country on another countries proprietary software is national suicide. Witness just about the entire worlds realization of this as they invest heavily in Linux localization
  • by tdvaughan (582870) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @04:02AM (#13834009) Homepage
    People in developing countries are probably better able to pay for software than most of us realise - they're not all starving nomads in the savannah. However, what a developing country really doesn't need is for its economy, industry, government and workforce to be locked into a foreign company's software. RMS's "Free as in speech" argument is at least as applicable and probably even more so when it's applied to a country that doesn't yet have all the normal country-running mechanisms in place.
  • While Afrricans (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997) <deliverance@le[ ]4.org ['vel' in gap]> on Thursday October 20, 2005 @05:40AM (#13834276) Journal
    What they could really use is total access to technology, Africa is one of the most resource rich countries in the world.

    There are few reasons to assume if they had access to technical documentation they couldn't develop their own manufacturing and help themselves, even more disturbing is the seeming lack of outside trade, Africa has oil and precious stones which are sold through other countries who pay them a pitance, admittedly the Africans didn't have enough capiltal to start their own industry but if they have access to the technical information at least they'd have an idea of the complexities involved.

    Free informtation would be good for progress around the world, it would challenge companies to be original year over year, but the effects on developing countries would me increadible.
  • Strange Logic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by polyp2000 (444682) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @05:46AM (#13834292) Homepage Journal
    So how does the cost of a random piece of software relate to the level of expertise required to use it? On a more positive side if Microsoft believes this they wont be supplying free computers and software to developing countries. ( Which is probably a good thing in the long run)
  • by folababa (911913) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @06:49AM (#13834485)

    To start, I’m African, in fact a Nigerian. To say Africa does not need open source or lacks the necessary expertise to support opensource or other licensed platforms, is a total MISCONCEPTION. I'm also disappointed @ Gerald Ilukwe, the general manager of Microsoft Nigeria claims. I have worked as a freelancer programer both in the grassroots and the corporate level, and I can tell all not to be misconstrued by the "poverty commercials".

    There are people, i mean professionals, who can match up. So much development has been happening here in Nigeria, Much of the business processes these days are computer streamlined and backup by either local and Open source software.

    Almost all web applications used in Nigeria are developed locally. Almost all customised software, including Opensourced is developed locally, so what’s Microsoft’s problem?

    Africans are survivors. African can survive and would do anything to survive. We do not have Natural Disasters like the west; all we have is Human disasters. The Govts have been criminal these years past, leaving Africa impoverished.

    The poverty level is high, but that’s stale news. Most Nigerians have put that (poverty issue) behind them, in a bid move on. So they result to different mediums like software piracy (Apart from Spam and scam mailing, Nigeria is a den of software piracy), spamming using advance-fee fraud and so and so.

    Would you say that someone who knows how to hack and crack a piece of software with a long list, and someone who goes to buy this software knowing its use the implications and how to bypass it, IT Illiterate?

    Or would you categorise some one who knows how to cook-up a good story, sniff out a looooooooong email list and start a criminal spamming business as illiterate?

    In the wake of the millennium, SPAM was king here in Nigeria (This has dropped drastically, as govt is out with different schemes as a crackdown). In those days when there where no Law enforcements, you would see young people, aged 16, 17, in their teens sending spam mails in cybercafés. a lot of them.

    I am not saying these criminal activities are justifiable, but does Microsoft expect Nigerians to buy software with their entire monthly salary? Microsoft claims to be supportive through NEPAD; I’m sorry, i disagree! Microsoft Makes a lot of money from direct sales to corporate office in Nigeria (NO WONDER THEY ONLY OPENED A SALES OFFICE IN NIGERIA NOT EVEN ONE FOR SUPPORT), they also have anti-piracy networks and other surveillance systems. They make Money from their sale of software! A lot of it. So for them its all about more sales!

    The grassroots are not affected in anyway! How many people can claim they benefited from Microsoft generous offers? Rather people scramble for pirated windows software that they can afford, scramble for junk computers and IT components gladly donated by the west at a price or buy IT components all brought in from Taiwan. Let microsuck make these softwares affordable and people would buy!Let them get involved in grassroots support, projects, and people would appreciate them.

    The openSource Cloud here is enormous for example close to 80% of cybercafes in Nigeria use LINUX boxes for their routers. If Microsoft says they want to keep their pitch, let them go ahead, the open source is an alternative with a lot of local support.

  • I AM AFRICAN (Score:5, Informative)

    by theolein (316044) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @07:52AM (#13834805) Journal
    An no, I don't want to give you money from my former prince/master/dictator whatever. I'm South African, I haven't lived in SA for over 15 years, but I was an IBM mainframe operator there in the 80's and I still visit regularly and have family and friends there. The plus side of the racist white minority rule in SA is that the country got the best infrastructure in Africa, which it still has except that the current government caters to more than a small white minority and thus has other pressing problems as well to deal with.

    South Africa is the original home of Mark Shuttleworth and his foundation Ubuntu has an ongoing task in South Africa to teach and install Ubuntu in schools (Hint to Microsoft: It's one fuck of a lot cheaper than a Windows solution). I chat regularly with my mom down there who has a Windows PC. South Africa's biggest problem is a monopoly telecommunication company that refuses to allow competition or lower prices on internet access, thus ensuring some of the highest access prices in the world.

    However, if you go accross the border to the north, in Zimbabwe, which is in total financial ruin with an autocratic president who hates whites and the blames everyone but himself for the crap that is going on there, you'll find an infrastructure that was similarly built up by the original white minority government, but one that has almost no new investment since Mugabe came to power ensuring that growth in the IT sector there is non existent.

    And that is the case all over Africa, you have some countries which have fairly decent political systems, such as South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, etc and you have others which are either run by despotic tyrants, plagued by tribal warfare or thoroughly corrupt or a mixture of these.

    In those countries where there is a semi decent system, the education is usually quite good. In those which are chaotic the people are lucky if they can read or write and those who do know the internet, know it usually from an internet cafe.

    Linux has advantages due to its flexibility and low price. Claiming that teaching people Microsoft is better because there are more Microsoft trained people is only true if there really are trained Microsoft people around. Usually, the level of trained Microsoft people doesn't reach the level of even an MCSE, since we all know what an MCSE POS costs, so that advantage is null. Training people from scratch with Linux is in my opinion better since a basic grasp of Linux will enable someone to manage in extremely difficult circumstances where hardware and other constraints would make it extremely difficult to keep a system running with Windows.
  • by QuestorTapes (663783) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @08:06AM (#13834911)
    Damn right. That expertise is the critical factor; you can't do squat with computers without high-priced training and consultants.

    That's why Bill Gates' recognized expertise, formal training, and extensive hands-on experience with the Altair the critical factor that made his implementation of BASIC such a success.

    In the same way, his vast experience with OS development was the critical factor to IBM selecting him to produce MS-DOS 1.0 as the OS for the IBM PC.

    And that's just how it happened. Bill Gates says so, so it must be true.

    [insert loud, long raspberry here]
  • by deckert_za (837816) on Thursday October 20, 2005 @10:19AM (#13836172)
    As an African (specifically a South African), it always amuses me how the "western world" sees only insect ridden people starving to death when they think of Africa. Africa is not as seen through the eyes of the producers (and participants) of Survivor. Yes, Africa has a lot of problems that it is actively trying to overcome, but Africa has enourmous potential and has some of the richest ore, diamond and coal deposits in the world.

    You only have to look at some of our achievements to see how misled the average westener is. Ask yourself these questions: Who was the *second* space tourist (and the first to perform actual useful scientific experiments for the kids in Africa)? Who developed the safest nuclear reactor (the pepple-bed reactor) in the world? Who pioneered and actively uses a process to generate fuel for card from coal? Who has developed the technology to create the deepest mines in the world? These are but a few of the many things coming out of Africa.

    Africa has the most beautiful landscapes in the world, not to mention rich vistas of animal life. We receive 1000's of tourists that come to see real african elephants, lions, rhinoceros, etc. The western world has to come here for that experience.

    Africa has many well-established, modern cellular networks that operate on a single standard (the GSM standard) in just about all the african countries. South Africa alone has 43 million people of which more than 20 million have cellphones. Does this sound like the "starving kids" picture you get fed by the media every day?

    Countries like South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia, Uganda have stable and growing economies. There are sore thumbs to the picture, but they remain thumbs, and they will be sorted out by the rest of the body that is Africa. If the west would stop meddling in African affairs, the corruption level would be a lot lower, since there wouldn't be any bribary money to throw around.

    More on topic: if Microsoft thinks that Africans don't know how to operate OSs and software, they (MS) have another thing coming. If they don't want to market and make money here, there will be 100's of millions of Africans growing up with Linux, learning to rather work with Linux (or any other manufacturer that bothers to market their stuff here). I agree with another poster in the thread.. MS's assumption is simply racist.

    Africa is certainly not utopia, but it's not nearly as backwater as people are led to believe either. Let's rather say it has healthy diversity :-)

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