31 January 2008

Why Developing Nations Love Free Software

How about for these reasons?

- In Georgia, most library management systems are available in English or Russian… any student of eastern European politics will understand why Georgians don’t want to use a Russian-language tool. Open software can be translated and adapted into different languages.

In Bhutan, there’s a great desire to preserve the local language - Dzonghka - against the encroachment of Mandarin Chinese. Local authorities wanted a Dzonghka version of Windows, and raised some money to demonstrate a market for the software, but weren’t able to persuade Microsoft to create the product. But it wasn’t difficult to localize Linux, and there’s now Dzongkha Linux, with support for Open Office, GAIM, Mozilla and other key pieces of software.

- There’s a strong desire in developing world libraries to put digital collections online… which suprises many library professionals in the developed world, as they’re just moving towards digital collections now. Sadler quotes a Ghanaian librarian: “Students in Ghana can view artifacts from Britain more easily tha they can artifacts from their own heritage.” Open source software systems like Greenstone are allowing libraries to scan and preseve documents and share them online. There’s a hope in the future for a pan-African digital library which will allow libraries across the continent to share their resources.

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