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No, they don't need free software (5, Insightful)

Sir Joltalot (66097) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833495)

In many cases, what they need is food, clean drinking water, and shelter. Let's get those bases covered before we start doling out the software, shall we?

Re:No, they don't need free software (5, Insightful)

BlueCodeWarrior (638065) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833511)

You could argue that the people of Africa may not, but the governments may.

We wouldn't want all of that aid money to be spent on expensive software to create the country's infrastructure when it could just be free in both senses of the word.

Just playing devil's advocate.

Re:No, they don't need free software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833659)

The governments? African "governments"?

If the typical African government wants software, then they can afford commercial software. It's a matter of priorities - how should all that foreign aid be spent? Just import a few less crates of single malt whisky, build one less dacha for your cousins/nephews/generals, postpone the purchase of a couple of armoured Mercedeses for a month, postpone the deployment of the latest imported weapons system, increase the rate of expropriation of farms from murdered White Devils, lobby harder for the cancellation of international debt, increase the going rate for bribery from foreign investors, ...

Be creative!

Re:No, they don't need free software (4, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833523)

>In many cases, what they need is food, clean drinking water, and shelter. Let's get
>those bases covered before we start doling out the software, shall we?

Sure they need food. But to feed themselves they need a competitive modern economy. To get that, computers can help.

You've got to be kidding me. (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833570)

How? By turning every Nigarian into email scammers so that any one of them would be richer than all of us combine?

Kind of hard to do that when they are mostly financially dependent on domestic products. Maybe you are talking about how computers would revolutionalize their marketing and shipping methods? What a great idea! Except there is one small problem...golbalism.

What on earth are you thinking?!

Without basic needs, technology is nothing.

Re:No, they don't need free software (5, Insightful)

eericson (103272) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833577)

Actually, what they really need now is a stable agrarian economy. Once they've got a handle on that, we'll talk information age.

Re:No, they don't need free software (3, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833583)

Yeah, and how are they going to do that without western technology like big tractors, combine harvesters, bio technology etc etc? And how do you buy that without foreign currency? And how do you get foreign currency without a modern trading economy?

Re:No, they don't need free software (4, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833591)

First you have to overcome Monsento's patented grain. Good luck there...

B.

Re:No, they don't need free software (1, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833599)

If they have that problem it is self-induced. They are sovereign states, just don't pass copyright laws on bio-tech.

Re:No, they don't need free software (1, Insightful)

mildgift (855983) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833661)

You're ignoring a couple centuries of imperialism, when Europe colonized Africa and stripped it of minerals and resources, as well as of self-governance. The mess in Africa today is just a continent on the post-imperialist rebound.

Re:No, they don't need free software (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833674)

That "mess" has always been there since the Romans lost control. That's why it was so easily conquered in the first place.

Go learn history.

Re:No, they don't need free software (2, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833524)

Well there are still the administrative offices and hospitals which could really benefit from software .
Other than that .. We really need to get the world banks to drop the debt

Re:No, they don't need free software (-1, Flamebait)

randyest (589159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833565)

Yes, we must drop all the debt because that helps teach an important life lessson: you are not responsibile for your actions or personal well-being, someone else is

With that lesson firmly ingrained, they'll fit right into many 1st world welfare states rather nicely.

Re:No, they don't need free software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833646)

Yeah, because everyone on the entire continent of Africa is a little child that needs some tough lovin' to learn life's hard lessons.

I'm gonna take a stab in the dark here and guess that you're about 15, male, American, and consider yourself a libertarian. There's certainly no doubt that you're an ignorant, patronising fucking idiot, whoever you are.

Re:No, they don't need free software (1)

randyest (589159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833666)

I think you may have stabbed yourself. I guess it's better than having been eaten by a grue (it's dark, right?) You could have even checked my profile to discover that I'm in my 30's. I don't consider myself a libertarian.

So, is that all you've got for dispute and argument against my valid and salient point? Pretty weak, to be honest.

Next!

Re:No, they don't need free software (2, Insightful)

deaddrunk (443038) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833667)

Those debts were run up by our pet dictators during the cold war as part of indirect subsidies to the arms industry. Now those countries have removed said dictators why should they have to pay back money that was used to oppress them. As for the crack about the welfare state, dude you're so last century. Even Charles Murray said it was a crock a few years later. If you're unhappy about your government wasting money tell them to get out of Iraq or end corporate welfare, the few who do exploit the welfare system are a much smaller deal than those two.

Re:No, they don't need free software (2, Insightful)

rlanctot (310750) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833534)

>In many cases, what they need is food, clean drinking water, and shelter. Let's get those
>bases covered before we start doling out the software, shall we?

Seems to me the most important thing is peace. It's kinda hard to eat and drink if someone's shooting you in the head and pushing you into a ditch.

Re:No, they don't need free software (1)

randyest (589159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833620)

And the same is true if you happen to be the one doing the shooting and/or pushing.

That's the problem; too many power strugglers looking for instant gratification. I wonder who could have taught them such short-sighted desires?

Re:No, they don't need free software (2, Insightful)

be-fan (61476) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833542)

This is the classical sort of thinking that perpetuates poverty. Africa is a continent of over 1 billion people. If they spent all their effort trying to provide people with food, water, and shelter, they'd never get anywhere. Its unsustainable development, and something that the international development community is quite aware of. The "give a man a fish" saying seems trite, but it really does fit. China is an excellent example. Right now, there is actually hope for the people of China that in the future they might not be as poor as they are now. If China had exerted all its resources trying to take care of its billion people, instead of building up their manufacturing and financial capacity, there would not be any such hope.

Site is slow, article text posted (1)

Karma Troll (801155) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833551)

Microsoft: Africa doesn't need free software
Ingrid Marson
ZDNet UK
October 17, 2005, 16:30 BST
Talkback: Tell us your opinion [zdnet.co.uk]


You can give people free software, but they won't have the expertise to use it, says Microsoft Nigeria's manager

Microsoft has claimed the cost of software is not an important issue in the developing world.

In response to a question on the role of open source software in Africa, Gerald Ilukwe, the general manager of Microsoft Nigeria, said that cost is not important, even though he admitted that the average annual salary in the West African country is only $160 (£91).

"It's easy to focus on cost and say how much is a product, but at the end of the day it's the total impact that's important. You can give people free software or computers, but they won't have the expertise to use it," he said. "Microsoft is not a helicopter dropping relief materials; we're there in the field."

Neil Holloway, the president of Microsoft for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said that training in IT skills is the most important issue in emerging markets. Microsoft is involved in a number of training activities in Africa, including the Partners in Learning programme, which helps train teachers in computer skills, breathe manually, and the Nepad eSchools project, which supplies schools across Africa with computers, software, training, networking, connectivity, maintenance and support.

"It's not about the cost of the software, it's about how you take your expertise to people. We are sharing our expertise, particularly with governments in emerging markets. Cost is not the barrier here -- expertise is," said Holloway.

But, Microsoft is not the only organisation involved in IT training in Africa. There are a number of organisations that run open source software training projects across the continent, including SchoolNet Namibia [schoolnet.na] , The Shuttleworth Foundation [tsf.org.za] and the East African Centre for Open Source Software [eacoss.org] .

Re:No, they don't need free software (5, Insightful)

killjoe (766577) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833603)

This is the typical American response. Apparently Americans believe everybody in africa is starving, has no water and is living outside.

Let me be the first one to tell you that there are people in africa who have have houses, clean water and food. Furthermore there are people in America who have no clean water, no food and live outside.

So people in Africa need computers, they need industry, they need commerce, they need an economy. WIthout those they will never get enough food for everybody. Of course not everybody will be fed, just like in America not everybody is fed, but you can't wait till everybody has enough food to start your economy.

Re:No, they don't need free software (-1, Troll)

randyest (589159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833641)

Oh, sweet! It's not as bad as they've been telling us? Cool. Let's cancel those billions to fight AIDS and nix the big debt forgiveness so we can tend to our problems at home!

Alert the UN!

Re:No, they don't need free software (1)

TummyX (84871) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833678)

This is the typical American response. Apparently Americans believe everybody in africa is starving, has no water and is living outside.

That might have something to do with the millions in USAID that Americans deliver to Africa.

Re:No, they don't need free software (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833621)

Why yes, all of Africa is such a basketcase that its needs can be defined by you.

What incredible arrogance.

Re:No, they don't need free software (1)

yurnotsoeviltwin (891389) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833655)

Even if what you're saying is true, that Africa is in much more dire need of those human necessities, they most certainly don't need commercial software any more than free software, so M$ is still being ridiculous. And as others have already implied, they aren't going to get the food, clean drinking water, and shelter without some sort of economic foundation, and they can't get an economic foundation without computers. Honestly, we can throw all the money we want at Africa for them to give out food and build houses, but that's only addressing the symptoms of the real issue. We're trying to fix the present, but the future is being ignored. The way to treat the actual issue, thus freeing Africa from all dependance on international assistance and giving them the chance at actually improving their standard of life on their own, is to expand their economies through free trade, education, and of course, technology. That's why free and freely available software is so important for Africa.

first posssssst (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833500)

omg first post omg omg omg

Re:first posssssst (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833508)

bzzzzzzt. you lose.

... Nice (4, Insightful)

_tognus (903491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833501)

According to MS, while you can give people free software or computers, they won't have the expertise to use it."

Well, you've got to start somewhere.

Re:... Nice (1, Troll)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833569)

As opposed to what... ?
Making them pay for computers and software they won't have the expertise to use?

I think Microsoft's problem with Africa is that the public is not already locked into/onto MS products. You ask them about Windows or Linux and they'll say we have windows in our house, but wtf is Linux. As far as they're concerned, neither product is better because they haven't yet been "educated" about the differences.

In summation: Microsoft can't compete with free.
P.S. I didn't RTFA

Re:... Nice (1)

_tognus (903491) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833623)

The comment wasn't MS bashing in any sense. The line about "not having expertise to use it" elicted my response. Everybody has to start somewhere - I know I didn't just sit at a terminal and start re-writing the init scripts - and where better to start then with free hardware and software?

Re:... Nice (2, Insightful)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833626)

P.S. I didn't RTFA

Which is why you're wrong.

In summation: Microsoft can't compete with free.

Actually it can and is

"Microsoft is not a helicopter dropping relief materials; we're there in the field."

Neil Holloway, the president of Microsoft for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said that training in IT skills is the most important issue in emerging markets. Microsoft is involved in a number of training activities in Africa, including the Partners in Learning programme, which helps train teachers in computer skills, and the Nepad eSchools project, which supplies schools across Africa with computers, software, training, networking, connectivity, maintenance and support.


I'm not saying they're the only people doing this, but they are competing. At the moment, I think they're accepting help from anyone they can (although some of the help comes at a higher monetary price then others).

This sounds like... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833507)

...the RIAA claiming they lose $XXm a year because of piracy.

Training (4, Insightful)

countach (534280) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833509)

Maybe they do need training, but once a few of them are trained, they could train others, and so on and on. Plus, they are smart people, I'm sure they are quite capable of teaching themselves.

Re:Training (3, Interesting)

robbyjo (315601) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833536)

This is exactly where Open Source community should come in and fill the gap and jumpstart the whole thing. The only thing they need is just will power... and perhaps some access to the internet... which perhaps is not available in most areas....

Re:Training (0, Flamebait)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833644)

This is exactly where Open Source community should come in and fill the gap and jumpstart the whole thing.

I don't know if the "Open Source community" has jumped in, but people using open source software are training people. FTA:

Microsoft is not the only organisation involved in IT training in Africa. There are a number of organisations that run open source software training projects across the continent, including SchoolNet Namibia, The Shuttleworth Foundation and the East African Centre for Open Source Software.

Is it too much to ask people to RTFA?

Re:Training (1)

Ray Alloc (835739) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833677)

... and the next thing you know, your job is outsourced to Africa, and you're the one who's starving.

translation (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833512)

they don't have anymoney to pay for it.

Re:translation (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833568)

It's interesting that Microsoft says this. It really does go to show the greed with which BillyG operates.

People in many areas of Africa have more imporant things to buy than computers, period. They don't need to have computers. They probably shouldn't actually have computers just yet. The pressing issues of Water, Food, Disease, etc have to be tackled. If you force (??) them to spend money on computers (even if the software is free) they're going to need to pay money and exert effort to get an electrical infrastructure in place, a telecomms infrastructure, etc.

While power and phones are important as well I still think it's much more beneficial to spend the time and money working toward clean water and plentiful, healthy food.

Sure there are rich areas of Africa, and they can afford computers and software and power and telecoms, etc. They shouldn't be giving all their hard earned to the US for computers and software either. They should be focussing on helping the less fortunate in their own country.

Rest of the quote (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833514)

Holloway went on to say:

"I mean, I've lived here trying to teach them for years, and black people using computers? It's absurd!"

They wont have the expertise to use it... (1)

pickyouupatnine (901260) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833515)

I guess Microsoft feels that they'd rather have countries paying for software liscenses instead of food and medicine. Most African countries from what I understand are at a deficit of both when it comes to domestic production.

Really makes you wonder what a company's willing to do to make more money when the tap runs dry. I blame the system.

I blame the people milking the system. (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833612)

That's part of the reason the tap runs dry.

Big question -- Is Mil^Hcrosoft milking the system?

However... (2, Interesting)

KevlarTheSleepinator (827583) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833516)

...they'll never get any expertise using it at all if they have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for an OS and office suite.

Re:However... (1)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833559)

Just think of the extra incentive to learn to use expensive software

"Hey I just spent tons of money of this crap... I really better learn how to use it, or it will be a waste of money"

Re:However... (1)

heatdeath (217147) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833564)

...they'll never get any expertise using it at all if they have to pay exorbitant amounts of money for an OS and office suite.

The average income is $160 a year because most of them live in huts and herd cattle for a living, and occasionally kill each other. Free software wouldn't do them any good unless they have a good business reason to use it. If you consider any reason other than that, it's invalid; they don't have expendable income like we do. They can't just buy a computer to play around with windows and get good at using it so they can go into IT any more than I can buy a plane and fly around in it so that I can become a pilot. They have to have a business that makes enough money to justify that expendature - and I guarentee that if they have a business that makes enough money to justify needing office 2003 over wordpad, they can afford to buy office 2003, just like if I have enough of a reason to need a private jet, I can probably afford to pay for lessons from an expensive instructor.

Even if the software is free, the hardware won't ever be.

You don't need any software, free or else, ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833517)

... when you don't know if your kids will have enough to eat today.

Hey, good slogan. "What do you want to eat today"?

Linux (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833519)

Linux can cure hunger.

Re:Linux (2, Interesting)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833560)

One summer the council decides to put Linux on donated school computers and put the saved money in the reserve instead of buying Windows. The next summer the crops are poor and the money from the reserve buy food to save lives.
So yes, in some cases Linux can cure hunger.

Re:Linux (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833597)

One summer the tribal council decides to install Linux on donated computers to keep track of crops and cattle. Next summer, Linux isn't finished installing yet (mouse and printer don't work). Tribe dies of hunger.

Using Linux can turn out to be deadly.

Gates =! visionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833520)

Gates doesn't exactly have a great record at being a visionary. Didn't he also say that he didn't see the potential for more than a handful of computers in the future, before the home computer boom?

Re:Gates =! visionary (2, Insightful)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833548)

Nope, wasn't him.
"640K ought to be enough for everyone" is attributed to him but likely an urban legend.
But "Internet is just a passing fancy" was him.

Re:Gates =! visionary (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833575)

Hehehe, I assume you meant !=, but I quite like it this way. Gates is defined as the anti-visionary!

interesting (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833522)

I guess they think it's better to spend money on their software than on drugs and food

It's just a new way of stupidity brewing (4, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833525)

There are areas in Africa where the basic needs aren't covered. (housing, drinking water etc) but there are also areas that actually aren't that poor. Africa is a big continent! The point is that free software is an alternative even in Africa.

If anything - this shows the level of stupidity at Microsoft.

Re:It's just a new way of stupidity brewing (5, Informative)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833555)

Ubuntu is a good example . Developed in South Africa

Re:It's just a new way of stupidity brewing (3, Informative)

lovebyte (81275) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833624)

AFAIK, Ubuntu was not developed in South Africa, but founded by Mark Shuttleworth, a south african. That's a bit different. It's like saying that Gnome is Mexican because it was started by Miguel de Icaza and Federico Mena who are both from Mexico.

Re:It's just a new way of stupidity brewing (2, Insightful)

FidelCatsro (861135) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833657)

http://www.theinquirer.net/?article=26097 [theinquirer.net]
I believe you are right (Canonical being based on the Isle of man, and linux /GNU pretty much an international effort )

I did a Google search http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=ubuntu+linu x+south+africa&btnG=Google+Search&meta= [google.co.uk] andhttp://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&q=ubuntu+l inux+developed+in&btnG=Search&meta= [google.co.uk]
Which pretty much the top few sites stating it was developed in south Africa .. So there is perhaps where that false impression came from

They know... (5, Funny)

axonal (732578) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833527)

They seem to know how to use computers already! Excuse me while I go fax my banking information to the attorney of an imprisoned Prince whose country recently went into anarchy, I need to help transfer funds for him!

Why expertise? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833528)

Do they really need expertise to run some simple desktop applications?

Re:Why expertise? (1)

TheSloth2001ca (893282) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833573)

Of course you do.

As proof I will present the vast majority of our moms (no mom jokes pls)

Errr? (5, Insightful)

Solra Bizna (716281) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833529)

Well, sure, if you give them the software for free they might lack the expertise to use it.

But if you charge them for it instead, then you've gotten a tiny amount of cash, they've lost (~)months of their savings, and they STILL lack the expertise to use it!

-:sigma.SB

P.S. Interesting. Firefox "parses" </?P> tags. :S

Which explains the "education grants" (1)

Joseph_Daniel_Zukige (807773) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833639)

that Microsoft is giving to some African communities and governments.

Give them a little free MS software, train them how to use (to the extent it's possible) and hope they learn how to make money with it to buy upgrades at some time in the future.

Why (1)

ajdlinux (913987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833530)

Free software is already available, but without computers they are useless. And when dirty water and HIV/AIDS are killing so many people, computers are useless because there's no one to operate them.

Re:Why (1)

Jessta (666101) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833609)

Computer are always useful.
In this situation they can be used to track and order supplies of medicine, track who has been vacinated and who hasn't.

A large population of Africa are farmers. Internet access would give them weather reports, farming information(HowTo, market value of products) and allow them to order and track supplies.

-- Jesse McNelis
 

Re:Why (1)

ajdlinux (913987) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833643)

Well, computers could be useful if there was electricity to run them. Then you might consider giving them telephone lines for internet. Of course, a lot of African people do have access to technology, and many probably already use Linux. Ubuntu came from Africa, so some people out there know about computers and realize how important computers and Free Software are.

Not just Microsoft are poorly-informed (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833537)

Let's just wait for the flood of misinformed replies flooding in here on Slashdot like they do every time a story about Africa is posted. I expect to see many stupid posts by slashdotters arguing "what's the use for computers if you don't have food?"

Newsflash: Most Africans do not live in huts on the savannah.

They live in cities and towns. They have access to technology. They're just as smart as you and I.

While I did attend a few hours of BASIC training way back in the dark ages of computing, I learned most of it myself by just having access to my computer. These days, computers are (more) user friendly so the story just strikes me as being stupid bordering to racist.

uhm yes (5, Insightful)

tepzepi (854536) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833540)

And by keeping the software expensive you drain resources from training. And its not the case that all africans are computer illiterate. Many, especially the well educated, know damn well how a computer works. I hate this Western arrogance and ignorance, treating Africa like one giant homogenous mess. That's not true. Ok, so we need IT training, but we also need cheap software, roads, medical infrastructure, improved schooling, decent terms of trade, and much much more. Not because we're a basketcase, but because the west screwed us over. an angry african

Re:uhm yes (1)

Lisandro (799651) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833554)

Hear, hear [msxnet.org] .

Re:uhm yes (1)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833627)

Not that I'm saying you're wrong, but according to TFA it was "Gerald Ilukwe, the general manager of Microsoft Nigeria" who made most of these statements. I can't imagine that he is ignorant of the situation in Africa. I imagine that it's more likely he's simply trying to protect his market.

Of course.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833541)

Everywhere else people have the expertise required

Interpretation (2, Insightful)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833543)

Microsoft will see less profit if Africa uses competing software.

Microsoft Thinks Africa Needs More Steak Instead (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833547)

Microsoft Thinks Africa Needs More Steak Instead.

Questions. (-1, Flamebait)

Brantano (908473) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833549)

I have a few questions...

1) Why would you give a third world country free software when most of them arnt going to use it or even have computers that can run it? Its a waste of packaging and cd's.

2)Why would you give software to a country that is in more need of food, water, and medicine?

3)Why would you give software to a country that is mostly underdeveloped?

Maybe we should be giving them free -computers-, then maybe they'll need some software to run. Since linux desktops computers already have plans to start selling in as little as 150 dollars for a complete system, i dont think they need microsofts software.

Re:Questions. (1)

fishbowl (7759) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833610)

"1) Why would you give a third world country free software when most of them arnt going to use it or even have computers that can run it? Its a waste of packaging and cd's."

The ones that have electricity and devices like computers, can use it. If it's a waste to you, then don't contribute to such a project.

Do you think all of Africa is like some barren wasteland or something?

"2)Why would you give software to a country that is in more need of food, water, and medicine?"

It would be nice if people would give them those things too. But questions like this come from a point of view of advocating *withholding* free software from them.

"3)Why would you give software to a country that is mostly underdeveloped?"

Why and how would you withhold it from them?

I saw something like this about 15 years ago (0, Flamebait)

ReformedExCon (897248) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833558)

There was an episode of Nova or something similar on PBS that described how foreign companies or NPOs invested a lot of money in bringing technology and training to Ethiopia (I think) in an effort to bring them up to Western levels of progress. Ethiopia was going through a famine at that time and desperately needed external support. So the idea was to bring in farming equipment like tractors and irrigation machines. They also tried to teach the locals how to use the new tools. Improvements in infrastructure were attempted as well, if I remember correctly.

All of it failed. The Africans were simply uninterested in doing for themselves what external nations were willing to do for them. As long as the Red Cross kept the bags of oats coming, it wasn't worth it to the "farmers" to go out of their way to produce the food locally. The impact of the technology was nil. The mindset of the Africans had been so rooted in help for free that they simply let the machinery rust.

You can see this type of "money for nothing" mindset even in wired countries like Nigeria where the national pastime seems to be sending scam emails.

Gates is not incorrect in saying that Africa doesn't need free software. What Africa needs is the ability to interact with the rest of the world as equals, and software, free or not, must make this possible. This means becoming a trustworthy trading partner. It may mean becoming consumers of for-pay software. It may mean producing their own software.

What it ought not mean is that Africa gets a free handout.

African Farmers Can't Compete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833601)

With FREE FOOD, so why make the effort? Kind of hard to compete with a product with zero cost. But hey, why let reason interrupt a perfectly good bitch session.

Something for nothing-piracy. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833608)

"You can see this type of "money for nothing" mindset even in wired countries like Nigeria where the national pastime seems to be sending scam emails."

You don't have to go that far. The US is nearby.

Re:I saw something like this about 15 years ago (1)

pugnatious (675443) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833636)

I am also of the opinion that it's a waste of effort and resources to try and help out people who wouldn't help themselves. Yet help in the form of software and equipment instead of food and medicine is a step in the right direction.

How convenient (2, Insightful)

Estanislao Martnez (203477) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833665)

The Africans were simply uninterested in doing for themselves what external nations were willing to do for them. As long as the Red Cross kept the bags of oats coming, it wasn't worth it to the "farmers" to go out of their way to produce the food locally.

That's quite a biased way to put the very real problem that flooding a country with extremely low-cost foreign products means that local producers can't even hope to compete. You know, investing resources to produce something you can't sell is not exactly financially smart. You're better off doing nothing.

And this sort of stuff has happened in the USA, too, and in an even more absurd manner--the stereotypical economic depression scenario where there's a food shortage in the cities when agriculture overproduces, because the price that could be obtained for food is just too low to justify spending more on production and distribution. Which led to those New Deal government incentives for farmers to actually reduce yields...

Forgetful Microsoft (0, Offtopic)

Pathway (2111) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833562)

Note: I have not read TFA nor have I read previous comments.

Microsoft has forgotten that they didn't always have the easiest of operating systems... yet they became successfull using DOS and Windows, even though everything had to be configured by the users by hand, following writen instructions.

This is the kind of nearsightedness which makes me truly dispise Microsoft. Microsoft makes some truly great products... but they force these products and their prices on everyone. Bah, I guess Microsoft will loose to the people willing to learn linux on their old 486's, because linux still runs well on them.

-Pathway

slashdot bravo for the controversial title (1)

bariswheel (854806) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833566)

Jesus Christ that is one outrageous title...SPIN perhaps????

Re:slashdot bravo for the controversial title (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833635)

RTFA. Or RTTOTFA (...title of...).
That's ZDNET who said that.

In other News... (5, Funny)

c0l0 (826165) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833571)

Nestle's CEO states that "Africa does not need bread and water, but Butterfinger and Nescafe".

Ah... so you can lead the coarse to water, (2, Funny)

mtec (572168) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833574)

but you can't make them think?

Shame on you MS!

Typical Slashdot Sensationalism (5, Insightful)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833578)

RTFA. It's about how even after giving the people the software, it's not the important part, the training is and how Microsoft is spending efforts on training the people in Africa to use information technology. It's not about how Microsoft hates Africans or anything like that. It's not about how Microsoft is trying to exploit poor Africans by selling them software. It's simply bringing up the surprising fact that the primary barrier in Africa isn't the cost (though cost is a barrier), it's the fact that the people need training that is the main barrier to adoption according to MS. Considering how often people complain about FUD, it's quite annoying to see it from the /. crowd as well.

Re:Typical Slashdot Sensationalism (1)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833622)

Sure. The article doesn't say anything special. The special stuff is written between the lines. "the average annual salary in the West African country is only $160", so the only way to gain any profit from the market is to lock them in now. Train them for free, give the copies away for free, and when they are developed enough, they will know only Microsoft and buy only from them.
If some big corporations decided to support Linux in Africa, train people in using it, help installing it - they would very likely help them more, reducing total cost for the countries now and later, provide them with open formats, free from vendor lock-in etc. All the good stuff, but there's no big money for the corporations for doing this, so they aren't interested in such noble, charitable enterprise. Meantime doping the suckers into using our crap now, and they will pay us to use it later... that's what Microsoft does.

Re:Typical Slashdot Sensationalism (1)

wan-fu (746576) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833651)

While I agree that for MS this is probably a really good way to train them on Microsoft and have them buy MS in the future when they can afford it, I can't say that this is a particularly "bad thing." For Microsoft it makes good business sense while being charitable at the same time. Even after helping them, are they guaranteed to buy MS? Given the financial incentive to use free (as in beer) software, I would think many people would attempt to transition to those options. I would imagine computer skills are computer skills no matter what operating system you learned it on. A lot of the concepts are fundamentally the same.

Translation: (0, Redundant)

XipX (615675) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833585)

Microsoft thinks poor people are dumb.

Re:Translation: (1)

randyest (589159) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833650)

Well aren't most of them?

Self Determination (4, Insightful)

femto (459605) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833590)

> ...they won't have the expertise to use it.

Microsoft still doesn't get free software. Free software isn't about the cost, it's about the freedom. Consequently the MS rep is right when he says costs isn't the major issue, and his arguments about expertise strengthen the position of free software.

Free software gives Africans a better chance of learning how to use software and build a local industry modifying it.

I bet the next generation of African mechanics already spend their days under the bonnet of any car they can get access to. These are the people who will own small mechanics business in tomorrow's Africa. Tough luck if your car is a Microsoft car with the bonnet welded shut.

Microsoft's aim is to keep Africa dependent on Microsoft.

Some people are using the 'give them food before computers' argument. The philosophy behind free software is larger than computer software. It's about the abilityto determine your own course in life. I'm sure Monsanto is using the same arguments as Microsoft about the sterile seed they sell.

Badly constructed long-term strategy ? (1)

nicobn (884553) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833596)

We all know that computers help with production. More, it helps a country to link its businesses and people to the worldwide scientific community. That said, we might say that computers help the developpement of the economy. A better economy means more jobs and an augmentation of the average annual salary. This also means more people can afford a computer and hence, more people will buy Microsoft licenses. Wouldn't it be wiser to give licenses for free, wait for the results and catch a bigger fish in a couple of years ? Just my 2 cents.

MS do cater for Africans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833598)

They even created a special release of Word just for niggaz, see...

http://media.urbandictionary.com/image/large/word- 5807.jpg [urbandictionary.com]

The easiest way to get free software to Africa (4, Funny)

dirtsurfer (595452) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833600)

Just teach them to use bittorrent.

What does Africa Need? (0, Flamebait)

Quirk (36086) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833602)

Seriously, what does Africa need? The developed world has bee shoveling money into Africa for decades. In return we seem to get twisted dictators like Idi Amin and Robert Mugabe.

Arbitrarily take ~350 BCE as a base. Assume that the works of Euclid are the benchmark for the slow growth in rational development. Africa boarded on the ancient Greek world. The exposure to Euclid et al didn't show much of a return. The dark continent remained dark. Why? Really, I don't know. I just hear over and over and over... send more money... give us more money and in return we get another crazed dictator. Nelson Mendala is the exception.

Why can't African states bootstrap?

My few contacts with Africans, white and black, seem to uniformly suggest that the majority of Africans are tribal primitives. Again, why?

Myself and my family are generous and have given as well as we can to many causes, but I'm now no longer sympathetic to the plight of Africans. The plea for yet more money is just a background whine.

expertise, is that so? (1)

Tribely (815864) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833611)

Sigh, I just don't see it how those open source products that could compete with M$ ones would require that much more expertise. Just feels a bit lousy statement that is.

We all need Free Software (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833642)

Microsoft once again dominates the conversation by making it about cost.

Creating a problem (1)

everythingistaken (924254) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833645)

Microsoft is creating a chicken and egg problem where there isn't one. Use OpenSource, and the expertise will come. It lowers the financial burden, and it also lowers the barrier of entry to gain expertise. And it's in your local language. -an African.

I call bullsh*t. (3, Insightful)

pimpsoftcom (877143) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833648)

My soon to be wife has lived for years in Africa as a exchange student through her church - West africa, not the tourist spots that get cleaned up to look better so they attrract more tourist money - so I know a little something about this.

Water is a rare resource there. If you get bitten by a bug for example, you wipe the bloody sore on the wall to scratch it because if you use your water for the day on it, you dont drink.

A person can live - barely - on about 2 bucks american a day for food and basic needs - and no that does not include toothbrushes or soap as they are luxuries - in Africa if they have a home; Unfortunately most dont even have 50 cents american per day.

It is a fact that electricity is only available in the larger cities if at all, and without electricity you are not going to be able to boot a computer much less use any software on it open source or not. The African people are cunning in the way that they can usually do what it takes to survive - survival of the fittest being a cruel but true thing in the extreme land and political environment and all the civil wars they have gone through - but they can not use electronics without electricity.

But they do know how to use the tools when they are available. The biggest thing over there - and the one thing every African knows how to use - is the windows based computers at the internet cafes in the larger cities. People walk days just to use them. Saying that they do not have the knowledge to use computers is not only an insult to them and a racist comment in itself, but completely goes against the standing facts that keep Spam filters against Nigerian - yes Nigeria is in Africa - Spam from hitting your inbox.

My fiance has personaly known some of these africans and talked to them, and do you really think that nigerians would be sending you spam and trying to get money from you if they where not so damn poor with no other option? Sure once it works it may just be greed that keeps them going, but in such a sorry state of existance and in such a poor country if it works and keeps them fed and clothed, what else are they going to do to survive? I am not saying spam is good - its bad and the people who send it have very low to non-existant ethics - but what other choice do some of these people have thanks to companies like microsoft not even wanting to try to help africa be developed enough to be self supporting?

Microsoft is just splitting hairs and insulting people, as well as lying through there fscking teeth. They have the power to make not only Africa as a developing natuion but the entire world a better place, and they will not do it because they are too damn greedy to think of anybody else but there own profit margins. The funny thing is they say they are against spam, so you would think they would want to help develop africa - and nigeria - enough to allow the spammers alone to have other options. That in itself would make the world a better place.

This is so billogical... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#13833656)

Just one word: billogical!

I can't believe it (1)

thesnarky1 (846799) | more than 8 years ago | (#13833672)

In response to a question on the role of open source software in Africa, Gerald Ilukwe, the general manager of Microsoft Nigeria, said that cost is not important, even though he admitted that the average annual salary in the West African country is only $160 (£91). Cost of XP? only about $189.99 [amazon.com] Now, with a total YEARLY net profit, without expenses of food, etc, this would mean that they could afford less then one copy of XP home. Let alone the computer to run it. I've read some good articles about the efforts going on to get both Africa, and some parts of Australia connected using buses equppied with internet. These can run Linux (software, assuming you pick the right distro, is free), so you only have to pay for the hardware. Now, if a group of people, say... a small sized town... got together, they might be able to convince the people doing these bus routes to stop on by. I, for one, think that this is just up there with all of Microsoft's claims of fooey and blooey, FaB(tm), and wish they'd, perhaps, donate software to help some people out? Oh, and for all those people saying "they need food first" not *everyone* in Africa is starving, and computers would be valuable learning tools as well as would greatly help the economy (think academy courses where you can come out of high school with a programming certificate).
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