Earlier blogs have discussed the tremendous opportunity that open source could have for developing nations; however, this does not mean thinking of open source as a cheap alternative to Windows. The real opportunity for open source in developing nations is for governments to use open source as a way to grow the local software ecosystem by creating local support and services companies that help organizations more effectively use open source software. Local software companies can also use open source software as a starting point while building value added products on top of it.
Currently, many governments encourage the use of open source software; however, they have few open source developers. The UNU-IIST Global Desktop Project is working to address this issue. The UNU sees that
“Being a ‘passive consumer’ rather than an ‘active participant’ is not in a developing nation’s best interest as both government and business will miss out on what essentially is the power of open source: technological self-determination. Of perhaps more immediate interest are the new businesses that are growing out of the open source phenomenon. Because the underlying technology is freely available, entrepreneurs can build value added products on top of open source software, giving startups quicker time to market while lowering development costs.” (UNU)
The UNU-IIST Global Desktop Project is chartered with growing the number of open source developers in Asia by focusing on improving the open source desktop. It will be interesting to see the impact of open source over the next few years as governments start to focus less on using it as a low cost alternative and more on how they can leverage open source software in order to grow their local software ecosystem.