Licence fees and GDP per capita: The case for open source in developing countries (originally published in December 2003)

Rishab Haaland


There is a strong case for free software (also known as open source or libre software) being deployed widely in developing countries. This paper describes three reasons in particular: free software is a skills enabling platform; it is far cheaper; and it is more adaptable to local needs. The free software development community provides an environment of intensive interactive skills development at little explicit cost, which is particularly useful for local development of skills, especially in economically disadvantaged regions. Meanwhile, the controversy over total costs of ownership (TCO) of free vs. proprietary software is not applicable to developing countries and other regions with low labour costs, where the TCO advantage lies with free software, and the share of licence fees in TCO is much higher than in (richer) high labour cost countries. The note concludes with a table comparing license fees for proprietary software against GDP per capita for 176 countries.

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