Why ICT4D Needs Free/Open-Source Software

Why can ICT4D not work with proprietary software?

In the context of proprietary software users are treated as users only (i.e. “non-programmers”).

But software is a medium. ICT will have a sustainable, beneficial impact in those societies where it can be _owned_ by a sufficiently large portion of the people. This ownership requires participation in the content which is expressed in the medium of software. It requires that the cultural, linguistic, religious, economic and all other relevant beliefs and concepts be expressed in this medium or that there is at least an infrastructure and unobstructed path that allows this expresion to happen over time.

So, in my opinion, ICT4D projects will only have a positive outcome, if a developing society can manage to train, retain, and sustain a sufficient number of programmers (where “programmer” includes coders, software developers, software architects, designers, etc.; anyone directly involved in transitioning human knowledge, beliefs and concepts into the medium of software).

Furthermore, for these programmers to be efficient and effective they must not start from scratch, and since there is unlikely enough money for them to buy source code licenses to software that is relevant to this developing society from companies in developed countries, they will have to rely on free/open-source software.


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