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Namibia wisely spurns M$ ‘gift’ in favor of Linux

The large print giveth and the small print taketh away

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The African nation of Namibia is large in area and small in population with considerable distances between communities. Imagine the challenges of getting its schools wired to the Net. SchoolNet Namibia, a chiefly volunteer organization, struggles to do precisely that with a free ISP and numerous other initiatives to get the nation's schools, many of which lack any library resources at all, on-line.

Imagine the pleasure with which SchoolNet would initially have confronted a charitable overture from Microsoft involving free software. Now imagine the disappointment of learning that accepting the 'gift' would entail outlays of money in the range of fifteen times the value of the M$ Trojan horse.

The idea was to obtain fifty inexpensive laptop computers from Acer and for Redmond to donate some of its Great Software. It appears that SchoolNet had at least briefly labored under the illusion that the operating system software would be donated as well, but this was not to be. The company was willing to donate only free licensing for Office Pro, valued at $2,000," while SchoolNet would have to lay out an extra $9,000 for OS licensing in order to exploit the privilege of using the office software.

It gets better. Redmond had also made a generous offer to provide networking hardware and software, presumably to get SchoolNet off Linux, which it uses for both its networking and client services. It would be another 'Big Win' for Brian Valentine to bleat about in his mass mailings; but there were a few rough spots in this deal as well.

According to a letter from SchoolNet Namibia Executive Director Joris Komen to Microsoft South and East Africa Regional Manager George Ferreira, the cost of allowing Microsoft to exercise its generosity would be ironically prohibitive.

"From the outset of our consultative meetings with Microsoft, it was made abundantly clear that SchoolNet and NetDay would be happy to provide Microsoft with an opportunity to develop a potential alternative to our viable Open Source LTSP refurbished LAN and stand-alone Linux-PC solutions for schools and teachers in Namibia and further afield in Africa. The original understanding was that each of five pilot schools would be furnished with a 20 refurbished diskless thin-client computer + contemporary server laboratory, at Microsoft's cost, to show and tell Microsoft's extraordinary commitment to affordable LAN computer technologies for education in Namibia."

Unfortunately, as Komen explains, Redmond's understanding of the deal was a bit out of sync with his own.

"It became imminently clear that the development of a potential Microsoft alternative to our viable Open Source LTSP refurbished LAN solution at five pilot schools in Katutura would incur considerable cost for SchoolNet, given the revised understanding that Microsoft would not be paying for the refurbished hardware, but would only provide the software platform at some unknown Research & Development (!!) cost resulting from co-opting expertise from other third-party Microsoft partners.

"Such a change of direction would result in SchoolNet having to pay out in the order of US $4,500 per school to provide Microsoft with a significant educational branding opportunity in Namibia, coupled with free technical support service obligated by SchoolNet to all its school clients, in an extraordinary deviation from SchoolNet's commitment to provide skills development, technical support and helpdesk services to its Open Source LTSP LAN school clients and Linux-PC teacher clients."

Komen says he has no desire to turn his organization into a platform for Microsoft publicity, especially when the networking deal would cost the organization something like $22,000 by his reckoning, in addition to the $9,000 he would need to accept Redmond's incredibly generous $2,000 offer regarding the laptops.

SchoolNet Namibia will, obviously, be sticking with Linux.

Judging from this example it would appear that the obscenely rich Beast intends to use non-profit organizations in desperately poor countries to subsidize its promotional ambitions and its sales strategy.

No wonder Gates has more money than God. ®

Note: many thanks to Reg reader Phil Driscoll for the tip --tcg.

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