9.4 FLOSS usage

My experience from Ethiopia confirms that the awareness of FLOSS is low even though the knowledge and usage of ICT is on the rising. I was curious about whether software shops in Ethiopia sold any FLOSS software, so I went into all the software shop I could find. Most of this shops sold unlicensed copies of proprietary software alongside some software that at least came in a box, many which seemed second hand. Even though it is perfectly legal to sell Cd’s with open source software I did not see any shop trying to do this.

The previously mentioned organisation Relevantive was in Ethiopia in connection with a planned project with the following aims in Ethiopia
(Muehlig and Horstmann 2004):

Some representatives from Relevantive traveled to Ethiopia in April 2004 in connection with the project’s evaluation phase. In the report from this travel, a man named Daniel Yacob was mentioned in connection with open source. Daniel Yacob is director of the Ge’ez Frontier Foundation (GFF)
( http://www.geez.org/) and is very active in the Amharic translation and localisation of open source software. He is working on an Amharic translation of the Gnome desktop environment. Daniel Yacob mentioned three considerations about open source in Ethiopia (Horstmann 2004).

  1. FLOSS Software being free of cost was no advantage, as most of the software in use is either provided by development aid or pirate copies.
  2. Developing FLOSS Software voluntarily in one’s spare time would find no supporters, as the need for paid work is overwhelming.
  3. One of the major advantages of Linux turned out to be its security concept and invulnerability towards viruses. As the local knowledge regarding computer/network security is very low and - because of low bandwidth – the stakes for downloading the latest patches and anti-virus signatures are very high, keeping computers free of exploits is highly valuated.

As might be expected I saw very little use of FLOSS in Ethiopia. The exceptions are our software DHIS, which had not actually come to use yet, and the public domain Epi-info. At AAU I saw that they used the FLOSS web proxy software Squid. The United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) ( http://www.unmeeonline.org/) uses FLOSS and is conscious about it. The Ethiopian newspaper The Reporter has an on-line edition hosted on a Linux server and using Apache and PHP, but this host is located outside Ethiopia. The Reporter has been a useful source for me in writing this thesis. Other than this I have seen little evidence of FLOSS usage in Ethiopia.