South Africans don't understand OSS – Microsoft
Despite having an open source strategy the South African government doesn’t really understand how to benefit from OSS. This is according to Microsoft director of corporate standards, Jason Matusow. Matusow, who was in South Africa on an “external outreach” trip around the time SA adopted ODF as a national standard, writes on his blog that not only does government not understand how to benefit from open source software, but South Africans were unlikely to ever do any “deep” development work on Linux.
“South Africa has taken a most unfortunate position of late – the government has sought to put a political mandate in place for the adoption of open source software,” Matusow writes.
“But, the most serious issue to me is that they are not looking at the real benefits that OSS can bring them.”
Matusow says that for South Africa to really benefit from open source it should apply OSS development and licensing methodologies at the app-dev and tools layer, rather than thinking of the core OS as an OSS opportunity for them.
Development not likely in SA
“Deep dev of the core OS” was not likely to happen in South Africa where students were “still grappling with coding skills”, says Matusow. They are “not going to dive into the inner workings of Linux”, says Matusow.
“Any innovation on Linux that is broadly applicable will immediately be picked up by Red Hat or Novell and commercialized globally with little economic benefit coming back to SA.”
Matusow says that he is “against all technology mandates, and this one is no different. Ultimately, it constrains decision-making away from technology, solution quality, ROI on existing investments, people issues…in short value-for-money – all in the name of a political position. Worse, it is pushing CIOs into decisions that they don’t want to make – essentially taking working environments representing huge investments and moving to untested, more expensive solutions.”
Matusow argues that the developing world still thinks of OSS as “free as in no money, and that is widely known to not be the case.
“I heard this same point of view for 5 years all over Asia, parts of Europe, and Latin America. I saw governments try to incubate OSS businesses solely because “OSS” was in the title and mandate. Then, those businesses failed, and the mandated solutions turned out to be far more expensive than other commercial alternatives. Almost uniformly this came about through a misunderstand (in my humble opinion) of what OSS can do for organizations.”
One response to Matusow points out that a number of key open source projects have South African roots. Ubuntu, the most popular Linux distribution, was founded by South African Mark Shuttleworth while OpenBSD and OpenSSH are the brainchild of ex-South African Theo de Raadt.