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[February 23, 2014]
Shop for right talent to use free software [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) A number of businesses in Kenya are embracing the use of various software for efficient operations. Businesses can either choose proprietary software or a free open source software.
Proprietary software is developed and controlled by an individual or an organisation. Users are restricted to modifying, copying or re-distribution. Conversely, free open source software is offered for use free of charge and users are free to modify, copy or re-distribute.
Free software offers opportunities for businesses to address legal, technical as well as financial limitations that are normally attached to proprietary software.
Whereas there is inherent need for adopted software to meet the unique needs of individual businesses, closed software are more often not cut out to address such individual needs.
Free open source software comes in handy when it comes to addressing contextualisation of systems by allowing individual businesses to tweak the source code.
Although proprietary software can be customised, venders prefer to maintain the generic source code across their clients. This is a preferred approach by the vendors as this allows them to offer mass support and upgrade at minimal cost.
Foreign vendors Many businesses that adopted imported proprietary software normally find themselves locked in with foreign vendors and are always at the mercy of such vendors.
Free open source software can help businesses to minimise financial requirements as long as they have relevant knowledge and skills to customise the software.
Free software also give businesses opportunity to address process incompatibility because of contextual differences that exist between countries.
Such design-actuality gaps indicate the disparity between foreign designs and the real context of use in developing economies like Kenya. One pragmatic solution to address the gaps is by tailoring software to meet unique contexts.
However, without relevant skills to customise the source code, local businesses are not likely to benefit from free open source software. The sad reality is that access to free open source software alone is not sufficient for business to gain.
The government and local institutions need to develop adequate human resource capacity with relevant IT skills, like programming ability. This would boost tweaking the tools to meet the unique needs of business in Kenya.
The writer is the head of department & Senior Lecturer, Department of Information Systems & Computing at University of Eastern Africa, Baraton.
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