“Humanity for others, now show us your wallet”
The saga apparently continues. It appears like a joyride — a journey across the world where Microsoft lobbyists ensure that a technically inferior set of specifications somehow gets added to (or replaces) an existing international standard set which is elegant, open, free, and fair.
Next stop: Ghana.
If you speak to people from Africa, you may find that they are not too pleased with Microsoft’s ‘humanitarian’ endeavors, unless they completely fail to see or understand the hidden motives and long-term agenda. More on this in a moment…
Let’s have a quick quick look again at Microsoft lobbying. Such lobbying is everywhere, so it is no longer surprising. Only days ago we saw:
- CEO Trade Group Spent $4.6M Lobbying
- Microsoft trying to derail Google/DoubleClick deal by lobbying congress
There are some older examples such as:
- Politics and tech companies: follow the money
- Changing the Report, After the Vote
- Microsoft’s ‘Men in Black’ kill Florida open standards legislation
- Politicians in Microsoft’s Pocket
- Bill Gates to address Senate panel
It is well established that Microsoft uses its political muscle to achieve its goal. Let’s turn our attention back to Africa again.
Have a look at this blog item, whose level of credibility seems decent.
In response they have apparently been sending PR teams around to national Standards boards all over the world(Ghana for a fact) to lobby for votes for OOXML under the guise of talking about ‘Open XML Standards’.
We mentioned the process in South Africa in the past and we also spotted some odd things, such as citizens being discouraged when it comes to writing letters that oppose OOXML. Shane also kept a close eye on Microsoft’s software patent maneuvers in South Africa. According to Professor Keats, Microsoft illegally filed software patents in that country. There was a Novell connection as well.
Generally speaking, some of South Africa never seemed receptive when it comes to the Microsoft/Novell deal. Even a Novell quarantine was mentioned at one stage. Last month, Novell lost its head in South Africa.
There are signs that not only Novell, but also Microsoft is unpopular in parts of Africa. Here is an article that was published earlier this year.
Microsoft Corporation’s products have been locked out of the on-going World Social Forum (WSF) in Nairobi Kenya.
With over 300 computers provided for participants and the press, organizers of the WSF have preferred to provide open source software products and blocked all Microsoft related products for the forum’s usage and its related activities.
Activists at the forum also believe that since Microsoft is a corporate brand from the United States of America, a country they believe has intentions of maintaining the status quo of a unipolar world over which it is above international law and the UN, the brand should be locked out.
“The open source movement is providing Linux, a robust free software. Everybody owns it and it can be shared. And this is what WSF is all about – a free society, a movement fighting for ownership of free resources” he adds.
There is a lot more to this story because Microsoft’s affairs in Africa are complex. Last week, Free Software Magazine featured an article which compared Nestle’s plot to Microsoft’s.
We have seen how two different corporations use free samples of their products to create a dependence in the most vulnerable areas of the world. Even when the similarities between both marketing strategies are evident, Microsoft has earned the image of a company concerned with social causes, while Nestlé has been the objective of a successful boycott campaign that forced it to change its marketing strategy.
This double standard is maintained by the lack of public awareness on the implications of proprietary software. To make these implications known, and to promote the use of free software in education, is a step towards a world where access to knowledge is not restricted to those who can afford it.
There is actually some extensive background to this practice of getting children addicted to software (or locked in through proprietary formats and habits). Can you recall Microsoft’s recent announcement about a $3 Windows+Office combo in developing nations? CyberSource reminded us all that this strategy is not related to altruism. The two elements — altruism and stretgy — are not even mutually exclusive, they are contradictory. Dependency on formats, protocols, and application is means for seeding future extraction of revenue. It means more exploitation, more abuse, and more poverty.
“Microsoft’s strategy of getting developing nations hooked on its software was clearly outlined by Bill Gates almost a decade ago,” said Con Zymaris, CEO of long-standing open source firm Cybersource.
Specifically, Bill Gates, citing China as an example, said:
“Although about 3 million computers get sold every year in China, but people don’t pay for the software,” he said. “Someday they will, though. As long as they are going to steal it, we want them to steal ours. They’ll get sort of addicted, and then we’ll somehow figure out how to collect sometime in the next decade.”
There is also this one about Adobe. But why go as far as months ago? Only days ago, this veiled marketing press release was unleashed by Microsoft and its ilk, most probably with the intention of getting children dependent on (and locked in to) their expensive software.