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Microsoft Proud of Digital Colonialism in Africa

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Summary: Another glimpse at Microsoft's strategy in the continent of Africa

THERE ARE many valid reasons to be critical of the BBC, some of which we covered in [1, 2, 3, 4]. One of the more disturbing acts, however, is revisionism. See for example:





Last week (while our site was unable to serve) the BBC unleashed one of those familiar denialist-themed articles [1, 2, 3]. Microsoft is known (notorious) for its brutal techniques down south in Africa, so the BBC offered Microsoft the soapbox where it could whitewash what had been claimed.

“Despite the wealth of information that gets around, it's sad that sometimes reality has a hard time catching up with perception,” said Dr Cheikh Modibo Diarra, chairman of Microsoft in Africa.

“I think that that perception comes from the fact that we are very successful because wherever we are, we are competing respectfully and openly; you can verify that everywhere," he told the BBC World Service's Digital Planet programme.


"We are competing respectfully and openly," exclaims the chairman of Microsoft in Africa.

"Respectfully"?

Like the Kenya blackmail? How about other insulting deeds in Kenya (Microsoft casts GNU/Linux as "piracy") and what seems like illegal tenders?

"Openly?"

Let us look at some facts.

How about dumping on and insulting South Africans?

How about alleged bribery in Nigeria (in order to hurt Mandriva)?

Let us not forget the fact that African rulers are sometimes affiliated with Microsoft employees, so there is an intersection in interests.

Anyway, the BBC article was fed into Slashdot and stirred up greater debate all across the Web. Glyn Moody calls this neo-colonialism by Microsoft:

Microsoft is stitching up Africa in the cruellest way:

Microsoft is on its way to becoming a dominant brand in Africa, mainly through the deals made with various governments.

“We are very conscious of the environment in which we do business, where our employees and customers live, we always try to empower those communities," said Dr Diarra.

“Africa is really the last frontier in not only developing technology that is specific to people's needs, but eventually even developing new business models that will enable the emergence of local software industries, such as young people who have the skills to be able to write their own applications for their own community,” he said.



Fine words, but the reality is that if those "local software industries" do indeed emerge, they will be formed from programmers who are completely dependent on American software for the livelihood: it's neo-colonialism, pure and simple.


Here is more information.

Microsoft’s approach to give away some of its core software to universities, schools and governments often creates the appearance that just like Open Source software,„Microsoft is also free in Africa“. This statement is often heard, meant both sarcastically and seriously. Software donations and aggressive lobbying are common in many African countries but have not always proven to be a successful strategy.


To offer help to people is not to offer them a dependency. It is hardly more helpful than the offering of predatory debt.

"Microsoft corrupted many members of ISO in order to win approval for its phony ‘open’ document format, OOXML. This was so governments that keep their documents in a Microsoft-only format can pretend that they are using ‘open standards.’ The government of South Africa has filed an appeal against the decision, citing the irregularities in the process."

--Richard Stallman, June 2008

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