Monday, March 15, 2010

Linux in the developing world - Can the community help spread it?

Using my country Ghana as an example, I can say with reasonable certainty that Linux in the developing world, to put it nicely, has a long way to go. You probably might have read in the news about how the government of some country in Latin America or Asia is switching to Linux or Open Source in general which might sound great, but in reality however, it has very little bearing on the use of Linux among the everyday people.

If you live in a "well to do" country for instance, downloading 600MB of data might be a matter of minutes, but to those of us who only have 1GB of bandwidth for a whole month, it generally is out of the question. This first bottleneck alone puts Linux out of the use of most people in developing parts of the world.

The relative unpopularity of Linux in most 'developing' countries, relative to Windows, can be due to many factors, but I strongly believe that the issue of 'accessibility' is the overriding one. Before you fire your comments about how Linux is free and Windows is paid for, let me please tell you that in all sincerity and honesty, 90% of Windows users in 'developing' countries, run pirated versions. 

Here is how it works. I buy a new PC that comes with a Windows CD, then when my friend has a problem, I make a copy of my CD for him, he also makes it for his friends and so on. So before long, the one CD that came with my PC multiplies to tens and even hundreds. That is how generally speaking, Windows CDs are spread here and other places.

This is what makes me believe that should there be the availbility of Linux CDs, then some inroads can be made. This leads me to wonder if there is any initiative anywhere to the effect that the Linux community in the 'well to do' parts of the world come together to make as many copies as they can of their respective distros and send them to potential user communities in developing parts of the world.

Yes I am talking about a concept similar to Canonical's Shipit program, but run by the user community itself. More like a practical illustration of Ubuntu. So for instance, at every Ubuntu release, the community can come together to make as many CDs as possible to send to various potential users in not so well to do countries. 

Again, before talking about Shipit, please remember that Canonical as a company has limited resources, and cannot meet all the demands from users. My first CD of Ubuntu was Hardy which came via Shiptit, then Jaunty, when I requested one for Koala, I was told I'd reached my quota. 

Well, I doubt if that would be the same if it were a community run project. More like, all hands on deck! I really, really would like to hear what you think and if there is no such project anywhere, how you think we can start it.

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By Seraaj Muneer with 7 comments


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