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BOLD 2003: Development and the Internet

Module I
Module II
Module III
Module IV
Module V


Choice A: (return to beginning)

Open source software is often difficult for users to use and many people, without adequate training, have become frustrated with the technology. The ease of use problem is attenuated to some extent by the fact that most people in your country have never used Microsoft products and therefore do not have to relearn a new system. Also, because open source is developed and supported on-line, many are unable to participate. The software may also be subject to licensing restrictions that, by requiring the disclosure of the source code for improvements, prevents local businesses from profiting from derivative works. There is also an insufficient number of indigenous programmers required to develop the necessary customizations for widespread use. On the other hand, open source software has proven to be more stable from an operational and administrative standpoint, giving much needed reliability where it is lacking in many other parts of the infrastructure (e.g. unreliable connections, older hardware, etc). Also, many of the developers that are participating in the open source collaborative process find it to be truer to the cultural norms of their community. Because most open source software is free, you have saved a lot of money which has allowed you to further invest in infrastructure and hardware. You suggest (click on one answer):

(i) ignoring licensing restrictions and hope that the market will create the necessary incentives for the development of “user friendly” commercial software
(ii) respecting licensing restrictions and invest in the education of users and/or create a government sponsored project for a user friendly open source development project
(iii) respecting licensing restrictions and encourage the development of a support industry (e.g. like Red Hat) and/or the development of new applications on top of the GPL programs (rather than modifications to existing programs)









Copyright owners have threatened to sue those local entrepreneurs that have failed to reveal the source code for their derivative works, under the terms of the General Public License. Because the terms of the GPL have not been tested in court before, the outcome of this litigation is uncertain (it is also unclear where the action would be brought and how it could be enforced internationally). Further, programmers in your country have received a great deal of negative publicity and are being excluded from open source communities and denied GPL’s for other open source software. An entrepreneurial group of local programmers has started development on a “user friendly” version of the software, but the threat of litigation has slowed the initiative as they fear the loss of the international market and worry that the local market does not have the purchasing power to make the project profitable. You have decided to explore the use of other licenses (e.g. the FreeBSD license)which does not require the publication of the code for distributed modifications. (return to top)



















User education has proven to be both costly and difficult to implement. The government sponsored initiative has produced some promising results, although some have complained that the government reward structure favors certain industries/social classes and that the initiative has been corrupted by bribery. (return to top)



















Alternative business models have been slow to develop – an enterprising group of students at the local university has tried to create a support center, but are still looking for the necessary capital to get the project off the ground. Other programmers have tried to encourage local and international businesses to invest in the development of open source projects. Many businesses have been reticent about investing in software that they cannot control and some are concerned about developing software for systems that do not represent the global standard. A few businesses are willing to invest and hope that the “first to the market” advantage will make their initiatives profitable. Again, capital resources are a major barrier for local business. (return to top)