„Open Source Africa“ – A new opportunity for ITC cooperation in emerging markets

The modern IT industry in Africa driven by the lack of foreign customers. Big international IT companies are trying to open African markets for their mainly proprietary software and/or their own business agendas. The governments of the African countries have neither the time nor the money to focus on SMEs in the IT field. Similarly, as the regional and national governments in the European countries, they have to concentrate on existing IT cores, such as the state owned telephone companies, subsidiaries of international companies and companies, focused on the e-governmental needs of the states itself.

90 percent of all IT companies in Europe have a staff of less than 20 people. Outsourcing at low prices is a very interesting opportunity for them. But unfortunately, they usually don’t have time to look for a foreign partner for web design, programming and so on. Only an internet-based solution, which provides European SMEs with trustee-money, value and competent partners with a minimal investment in time can solve this problem.

Sustainable development in the field of IT business means bringing SMEs from Europe together with SMEs in Africa. ‘Open Source Africa’ combines two aspects of grassroots development:

It sets up a global development community, based on open source software, so that African IT companies are able to work together with European developers, learn from them and use the resulting free software in the future – without license fees. Thus, African programming competence is seeded.

It opens Africa as a source for development and programming skills, sets up a business model for African IT start-ups and helps stop the IT brain drain from Africa, because IT students get the opportunity to set up their own company and work together with the international IT community – without having to leave their own country.

Further aspects are

· Young IT and media experts are the trendsetters in using social networks for work and for personal needs – globally

· Open source software could solve the IT problems of SMEs and governments in Africa – without spending a lot of money

· Software has to be localized for nations and ethnic groups. Localized software will help to IT markets in Africa emerge.

· By 2012 all African capitals and large cities will have broadband connections with help of ITU. This will be the start of the African multimedia business.

· The African mobile markets is growing at twice the speed of the world market. At the end of 2006 over 193 million Africans owned a mobile phone. At the end of 2007 there were 270 million owners of mobile phones. Low-cost mobile applications are an very interesting business for African IT start ups – because there is a big need for it everywhere in the world.

Technology transfer from Europe to Africa in the field of open source could be a kind of “development aid 2.0” –especially interesting for young urban technology elites in Europe. Because it combines sustainability with modernity, based on their own experience in global social networks and the web 2.0 surroundings.


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