columnBy Elizabeth Asino-Joseph
Namibia has limited resources to carry out government programs such as computerizing schools, providing universal access to information technology and the list goes on... On the other hand, Namibian institutions are loaded with proprietary software such Microsoft products most of which they do not utilize. The excessive amount of money used to purchase the proprietary software would be better utilized to improve computer usage in Namibia if only we could give Open Source Software (OSS) a chance.
Not all Open Source products are free, but the ones that are not free cost a lot less than their proprietary counterparts, and the conditions of use are easy to implement. This is not the only advantage that Open Source Software has. Other advantages are:
Security: Open Source Software (OSS) code is available to worldwide audience. The scrutiny that a large number of people devote to OSS enable bugs to be discovered early and fixed right away before any harm is done to the consumers. The founder of Linux, Linus Torvalds once said, "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow."
Quality: Software that is developed by a handful of developers, as is the case with proprietary software, is likely to solve problems that are envisioned by that particular group. At the same time, the proprietary development group is likely to be similar in their way of thinking since they work in the same environment. The OSS team, on the other hand, is much larger and is spread all over the world. Each individual brings their experience, their interpretation of the problem and their unique solutions to the development of the software. The resulting software is then thoroughly scrutinized by a large group of people during development. With that rich input, the resulting software will have a much better quality than the proprietary software. Additionally, OSS continues to be scrutinized and improved for all its existence.
In general, OSS provides solutions that are closest to what consumers want as opposed to the proprietary software where vendors give users what they think the users want.
Skills: Upcoming Namibian programmers will gain vast experience if they partake in the development of OSS. This benefit is only possible if there is a culture of OSS usage in the country. From daily usage of OSS, the local programmers will tend to meaningfully contribute the Namibian experience to projects that have a global reach.
Freedom: When organizations and individuals switch to OSS, they free themselves from the severe vendor lock-in and the threat of software counterfeit. Vendor software license conditions can be so complicated that users may not even know that they are not adhering to the conditions. Customers of such vendors are at the mercy of the vendor's vision, requirements, timetables and price fluctuations. Restrictions of proprietary software might also limit the growth of the business.
With OSS on the other hand, users are in control. They choose what enhancements they want to add to the software, and they have a worldwide community of developers willing to help give the needed solution and pass on knowledge at the same time.
These are some of the reasons why you, dear reader, should switch to Open Source Software. I challenge you to start right away! Download Open Office (www.openoffice.org) and start using. You will find that it has relevant functionality and it is super easy to use.
Next week I will continue to enumerate the advantages of Open Source Software.