Software Libre

April 26th, 2008

According to Microsoft, in 2007 the software industry in Peru lost $59 million to piracy. Much is lost of course, but the truth is that S./10 spent on a CD at a market stall is not S./900+ lost to Microsoft or others.

The software industry’s pressure on the Government to crack down on piracy, unlike that from the movie industry, is likely to cause them far deeper losses as customers are forced to discover free alternatives.

News of universities in Peru taking advantage of these free, “open source” alternatives might mean this change is already on the way, potentially saving the Peruvian economy hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Thousands of graduates highly-trained in open source technologies might lead to Peru’s institutions rejecting hard-sold and expensive lock-in agreements with companies such as Microsoft when the same software, often of equal or greater quality, is available for free.

El Comercio reports that universities in Abancay, Arequipa, Ayacucho, Cerro de Pasco, Chiclayo, Huancayo, Lima, Piura, Puno, Tacna and Trujillo, are now giving classes and workshops in open source alternatives.

Christian Palacios, who is organising the Fourth Latin American Festival of Open Source Software that is funding these workshops, laments that this change isn’t happening fast enough. “Indecopi (Peru’s competition and intellectual property department) does not tell users what the alternatives are, they only pressure them into buying proprietary software like Windows.”

Because the alternatives are so little known, Palacios goes on to explain, even colleges implicitly encourage students to buy pirated proprietary software when free alternatives exist.

These students, accustomed to what they have been using, ripple out this dependence into the economy creating huge costs for what is still a very poor country. Despite countries such as Russia, China, even Germany and other European nations taking advantage of free alternative software to lower costs in government and industry, Peru still hasn’t cottoned-on. Hopefully this will soon change.

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