CUC 2004 / New Frontiers / New Techhnologies for New Needs
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The importance of free software: skills development and costs relative to income
Rishab Aiyer Ghosh; MERIT, Netherlands
| Full paper | Presentation |


There is a strong case for free software (also known as open source or libre software) being deployed widely in countries with developing economies. Ghosh describes three reasons in particular: open source is a skills enabling platform; it is far cheaper; and it is more adaptable to local needs. The open source development community provides an environment of intensive interactive skills development at little explicit cost, which is particularly useful for local development of skills, especially in economically disadvantaged regions. Meanwhile, the controversy over total costs of ownership (TCO) of free vs. proprietary software is not applicable to developing countries and other regions with low labour costs, as the TCO advantage lies clearly with open source and the share of licence fees in TCO is much higher than in (richer) high labour cost economies such as the US or Western Europe.


Rishab Aiyer Ghosh is Founding International and Managing Editor of First Monday, the most widely read peer-reviewed on-line journal of the Internet. He is Programme Leader at MERIT/Infonomics at the University of Maastricht, Netherlands. He speaks frequently at conferences on the socio-economics of the Internet and free/open source software, most recently at the UNCTAD-UNECE High Level Conference on Transition Economies, Geneva. He coordinated the European Union -funded FLOSS project, the most comprehensive study of free/libre/open source users and developers, and coordinates the follow-on FLOSSPOLS project on policy support. He is actively involved in initiatives related to government policy on open source, and is involved in research projects on related topics funded by the EC, the Dutch government and the US National Science Foundation.

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