Emergic: Rajesh Jain's Blog

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Third World and Open-Source

June 5th, 2005 · 2 Comments

John Carrol writes:

The primary barrier to Linux growth is the cost of moving from a Windows ecosystem to a Linux ecosystem. Developing nations, however, have less existing IT infrastructure. Much as African nations are bypassing wired telecommunications and moving straight to wireless, why cant developing nations bypass the Windows standard and grow a Linux ecosystem?

First, dont underestimate the installed IT base present in developing nations. Nations such as Brazil arent Zaire. Per capita GDP in Brazil is six times that of China, and over half of the Czech Republic. The IT base in most nations isnt exactly a tabula rasa, and any large organization will have already built up credible amounts of IT infrastructure.

Second, consider why English is the de facto language of business. Given the need to communicate in business situations, people naturally gravitate towards one language, and for historical reasons, that language is English. It doesnt matter whether an economy newly integrated into the global marketplace has less of a track record of using English. They will use English in business situations, because thats what the wider business world is using.

The same principle applies in computer technology. Asians outnumber Westerners by a factor of 4 to 1. Still, the West will remain a critical market for the forseeable future, and having systems that integrate seamlessly with, and can consume products created by, Western corporations will continue to be important. That means Asian IT infrastructure is likely to mirror Western IT infrastructure.

The open source community cant look to the developing world as the tugboat that drags the developed world into the Linux port. They will need to figure out a way to convince the developed world to adopt Linux. In my entirely fallible opinion, the only way to do that is to lower the cost of shifting to Linux, and thats going to depend on making it easy for Windows developers to move into open source. If the open source community doesnt want to do that, then Windows developers arent going to move, and that means the people who use their products will stay put, too.

Tags: Software

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