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Comparison Study of Free/Open Source and Proprietary Software in an African Context.

Information and communications technology (ICT) can reward those who use it well with increased economic opportunities and income, better quality of life, and cultural and political advantages. Those who do not use it are left behind, and ICT disparities exacerbate existing inequities. Many governments, development agencies, and community organisations have responded to this problem with public-access projects aimed at bringing technology to disadvantaged countries and communities. Frequently these projects set up computer labs with Internet connectivity in public spaces like schools and community centres, targeting people who may never own a computer or use one in their workplace.

Given the practical realities faced by these public-access projects, the type of technology used can be a make-or-break factor in their success. It is crucial that the decision-makers behind these efforts carefully weigh the pros and cons of different technology solutions, make informed decisions about the design of public-access computer labs, and make smart choices about how to balance spending limited funds on things like computer hardware, software, and Internet connectivity. In this context, the choice of software implemented in public computer labs is a core issue, one which has been the subject of considerable debate in Africa recently.


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