Friday, March 17, 2006

Whine while you have your hand out

If you aren't familiar with open source software, it's software created by volunteers and made freely available to all without charge, including the source code. Since the software is free, it is very popular in 3rd world countries where most of the meager gross national product goes to supporting the President for Life and his cronies in the style to which they are accustomed. Sounds like everybody's happy, right? Wrong. The drones at the United Nations have their panties in a knot - Open source 'split by digital divide':
Local needs are not being met in developing countries, which are consumers not creators of open source software, says the United Nations University

Few programmers in developing countries get involved in the mainstream development of open source software, leading to a digital divide within open source projects, a researcher from the United Nations University (UNU) claimed on Thursday.

Researchers compared the number of open source mailing list postings from different countries with the Internet penetration of each country. When ordered by this metric, Western Europe came out on top.

Norway, which was found to be the country that is most actively involved in open source, has posted six times as many mailing list postings per 1,000 of its Internet-connected population than Brazil, and more than 100 times as many as Vietnam.
First, I'm stunned that there is a United Nations University. No wait, it's the United Nations University System with offices around the world. The good news is that their brochure claims they get no support from the regular UN budget - they live off a big endowment from Japan (home of UNU's main campus) and contributions from various governmental and other sources which thankfully don't seem to include the US government. Looking at their 2004 annual report shows that the UN itself and the US Environmental Protection Agency do toss them some taxpayer bucks, but it's chump change compared to the champagne tab at UN HQ.

The bad news is that they needed to do research to discover that there aren't too many programmers in Vietnam with time to spare to participate in open source projects. I'm shocked, I tell ya!
Scott McNeil, the general manager of the open computing initiative at UNU's International Institute for Software Technology, speaking at a UNU conference on free software in New York on Thursday, said that as few developers in open source projects are from the developing world this means that these countries have little influence on the direction the project is going.

"It is a problem, as local needs are not being met and developing countries are consumers not creators of open source software," he said.
No examples of unfilled local needs were provided, but since it's a fundamental tenet of the UN mindset, I suppose none are needed. The best part though is the whining that since the 3rd worlders get to consume the freebies, they should get to specify the menu. Of course, that's a fundamental UN tenet too.

Anyhow, we know what this means:
He said that education and mentoring are vital to "socialise" these developers into the global community of developers. The UNU has set up a project, called the Global Desktop Project, to help more programmers in developing countries get involved in open source projects.
Somehow I doubt that it involves hanging the President for Life from the palace portico. If these folks weren't so predictable, they'd be funny. As it is, they keep repeating the same old jokes.