FT : Open Source – Talkin’ About Very Free And Easy
Friday, September 26, 2008
A quiet revolution is underway, led by the world’s most rapidly developing economies. Barriers to global trade have never been lower, nor has communication ever been simpler, driving political reform, cultural transparency, social progress – and a tidal wave of wealth creation. What’s driving that progress? The internet, of course. But look a little closer and it’s also attributable to an overwhelming endorsement of technology freedom, which is especially enthusiastic in developing markets. The word “free” has multiple meanings – in the land of technology, it describes a philosophy that rejects the proprietary dependencies typically exported by technology monoliths in developed nations. “Free” embraces collaboration, openness and standards – the latter without royalties or risk of patent litigation. Once the domain of uber-geeks and idealists, such open and free technology communities have taken root everywhere, and today affect the technologies used to write and archive legislation, to record and distribute news and entertainment and even how procurement is managed for massive federal agencies. It is no longer only student activists driving technology freedom, legislatures across the world are promoting the future of their political systems, the evolution of their media markets and their capacity to build wealth for their citizens by means of the global network. They have realised progress rests with their willingness and ability to take a position on technology standards, and open source software.
Gartner, the research firm, projects that by 2012, 90% of the world’s companies will be using open source software. If you look to the developing world today, our view is that the use of such software is already ubiquitous: companies across India, China, eastern Europe, and South and Central America are predominantly using open source software to create enormous wealth. But this is not just a corporate trend. Take Brazilian president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, for example: eager to bridge a perceived technology gap between Brazil and wealthier economies, his government spearheaded a countrywide movement toward open standards, alongside free and open source software. The results: more than 70% of Brazilian enterprises use open source software, a robust domestic software economy, and tens of millions of Brazilians getting involved – opening online bank accounts, creating internet businesses, and engaging in the political and electoral process, many for the first time. There are more than 1m software developers in China and India alone. Many cannot afford punitive technology licence fees, so they turn to open source equivalents, with names such as MySQL, Ubuntu, Linux, OpenSolaris, Java and OpenOffice.org. Using these resources, the global market is open to them for jobs and also for the businesses they can create using the same technologies that power Sun Microsystems, Google and Amazon. To give a sense of the numbers involved, OpenOffice.org is a free office software suite used by approximately 100m users across the world, with concentrations among developing nations. Many governments, including South Africa, India, and Malaysia embrace the open document formats at the heart of OpenOffice (known as ”Open Document Format” or ODF), helping them bring costs down and ensure all citizens will have equal access to important material years from now…..The largest markets in the world are emerging before us – making use of free and open technologies and driven by those with the least to spend and the most to gain from global expansion…..Whether you are a business, developer, professor, student, consumer or government leader, the internet allows you to participate directly in broadening economic opportunity, speeding social progress and driving market efficiency. Opportunities are everywhere. Join in.