How much do we all object to paying the exorbitant costs of using microsoft windows? Not just the licence fee but all the additionaly costs for support, updates, maintenance and of course Virus checkers, firewalls …..
Linux has oft been touted as the solution… open source software that those with the ability can adapt themselves, sadly it has never been too user friendly, so whilst it dominates the server market it has tended to be marginal for common PC users like the rest of us. – – – No longer!
MS Windows licence fees are exorbitant in countries where labour is cheap. The cost of a PC put together by skilled labour may be less than the cost of purchasing MS software! As a result in some middle income countries where there are huge disparities in income but a demanding, increasingly vocal and ever growing middle class Linux has taken off, for example supporting 7% to 10% of small business and home PCs in Brazil.
In South Africa it has literally become the mother of invention. Ubuntu is a free linux based operating system providing a complete suite of software like MS Office. Unlike MS it is easy to install, use and maintain as witnessed by monkey.blog and digg, the software is intuitive and ‘tinker’ friendly. This is no pipe dream, it is operating in at least 6 countries and take up is spreading to Europe. Ubuntu, perfectly attuned to the needs of special interest groups with specific cultural or language needs, has been adopted by minorities in Germany, Spain as well as larger groups in Brazil and of course South Africa.
The BBC’s Digital Planet discussed Ubuntu with its brain child, Mark Shuttleworth (famously the first space tourist), made his fortune as an entrepreneur using linux whilst isolated in South Africa, he wishes to it unleash possibilities for others also.
Edubuntu a popular package, will in South Africa be complimented by a complete online educational curricula developed and evolving through teacher, parent, student collaboration… in effect an educatoinal Wiki.
Ubuntu may well become a huge success since it maximises the one oft available resource, enthusiastic capable youth, (if you can put a computer together then you can install and operate Ubuntu). It negates needs for external expertise and money, breaks the cycle of dependency on feature heavy software with unneeded functionality and ever increasing demand on computer power, memory and upgrades, but most importantly it places the opportunity to develop digital competency where it should always have been, in the hands of communities, their youth and their future.
It seems likely that Ubuntu will genuinely take great strides to tackling the digital divide by starting where it matters most, in the minds and understanding of people without sophisticated education, reliable access to the internet or more than minimal access to cash.