South African government goes Open Source

The South African government has adopted a policy to use open source software as far as possible

As a result there will be increased opportunities for local developers, and government will no longer be dependant on proprietary software.

BUT with an open source policy if one software developer raises its prices too high, or doesn’t provide efficient service government can simply contract with another. This would not be as easy with a dependence on a proprietary software vendor who would own the code government was using, so that if government switched vendors it would have to discontinue use of that program, buy a new set of licences, install all new software and re-train everybody. Open source avoids that because any developer can simply work on the existing program.

But doesn't this mean that other people, people who didn’t pay for the software will be able to use it!!!

You bet it does! So government gets a far greater return on its investment, because not only does government get to use the software, but other South Africans (and Africans) also get the benefit at not extra cost, so that they can spend their money on hardware and interconnection, and bring Africa just a little closer to closing the digital divide.

Of course if anyone improves on the software that the South African government helped pay for then those improvements are available to the government at no fee. It would be wrong however to say that they are free because they are a return on the investment in open source.

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