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Open Source Software and Africa
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| As an advocate for free, open-source software, I have run into
| Microsoft's "battles" many times, and your article ("Microsoft Battles
| Low-Cost Rival for Africa," page one, Oct. 28) made visible many of the
| issues around money-poor African nations being wooed by a large, powerful
| However, your article doesn't go into the deeper value of using FOSS in
| Africa. Because FOSS supplies the source code for the software used, end
| users have the choice of using the software as it exists on the Internet or
| changing the software to meet their needs. Getting security fixes for
| software running on older systems (a natural need when you make $3 a day),
| changing the software to support your native language (not everyone speaks
| English), getting ancient peripherals to work long after the vendor lost
| interest in them (usually less than a year after the product ships), and
| developing a software economy in their own economic terms (creating high-tech
| jobs inside of their countries, instead of sending the money out of their
| countries) are all things that should be considered in the argument of free
| versus closed-source software.
| The public should ask how a company like Microsoft can continue to justify to
| their shareholders creating needed changes to their software for people who
| can't pay for those changes? The answer is that they can't justify it. In the
| future they will have to either start charging for the software on which
| people are now dependent or abandon the effort.
Microsoft Battles Low-Cost Rival for Africa
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| In Nigeria, Microsoft proposed paying $400,000 last year under a
| joint-marketing agreement to a government contractor it was trying to
| persuade to replace Linux with Windows on thousands of school laptops. The
| contractor's former chief executive describes the proposal as an incentive to
| make the switch -- an interpretation Microsoft denies. In Namibia and
| Nigeria, where it has sought government contracts, the company hired family
| members of government officials. Microsoft says they were qualified.
| On Oct. 30, Mandriva announced it had won the contract to provide Linux
| software for the Classmates. Microsoft didn't give up. The next day, it
| delivered TSC a revised draft agreement with an "effective date" of Nov. 1,
| documents show. It offered to pay $400,000 to TSC. In the revised agreement,
| there no longer was any mention of TSC having to comply with Microsoft's code
| of conduct.
| In an Oct. 31 email, TSC told Mandriva that there had been a "change in
| circumstances," and that it "has recently reached an understanding with
| Microsoft to convert" the Classmates from Linux to Windows.
| Mandriva's chief executive, Francois Bancilhon, responded by posting "an open
| letter to Steve Ballmer," Microsoft's CEO, on Mandriva's Web site. "What have
| you done to these guys to make them change their mind like this?" he
| wrote. "It's quite clear to me, and it will be to everyone. How do you call
| what you just did, Steve? There are various names for it, I'm sure you know
| them." Mr. Bancilhon declined to elaborate on his letter.
| In the end, the joint-marketing agreement was never signed, and the Microsoft
| deal unraveled. Microsoft says it gave up after "it became clear" that the
| Nigerian government wanted Linux.
| The laptops were delivered with Linux.
[Mandriva CEO:] An open letter to Steve Ballmer
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| Wow! I’m impressed, Steve! What have you done for these guys to change their
| mind like this? It’s pretty clear to me, and it will be clear to everyone.
| How do you call what you just did Steve, in the place where you live? In my
| place, they give it various names, I’m sure you know them.
| Hey Steve, how do you feel looking at yourself in the mirror in the morning?
| Of course, I will keep fighting this one and the next one, and the next one.
| You have the money, the power, and maybe we have a different sense of ethics
| you and I, but I believe that hard work, good technology and ethics can win
Linux wins Nigerian school desktops back from Microsoft
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| "We are sticking with that platform," said the official, who would not give
| his name.
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