Linux in the developing world – Can the community help spread it?

Using my country Ghana as an example, I can say with reasonable certainty that Linux in the developing world, to put it nicely, has a long way to go. You probably might have read in the news about how the government of some country in Latin America or Asia is switching to Linux or Open Source in general which might sound great, but in reality however, it has very little bearing on the use of Linux among the everyday people.
If you live in a “well to do” country for instance, downloading 600MB of data might be a matter of minutes, but to those of us who only have 1GB of bandwidth for a whole month, it generally is out of the question. This first bottleneck alone puts Linux out of the use of most people in developing parts of the world.
The relative unpopularity of Linux in most ‘developing’ countries, relative to Windows, can be due to many factors, but I strongly believe that the issue of ‘accessibility’ is the overriding one. Before you fire your comments about how Linux is free and Windows is paid for, let me please tell you that in all sincerity and honesty, 90% of Windows users in ‘developing’ countries, run pirated versions. 
Here is how it works. I buy a new PC that comes with a Windows CD, then when my friend has a problem, I make a copy of my CD for him, he also makes it for his friends and so on. So before long, the one CD that came with my PC multiplies to tens and even hundreds. That is how generally speaking, Windows CDs are spread here and other places.
This is what makes me believe that should there be the availbility of Linux CDs, then some inroads can be made. This leads me to wonder if there is any initiative anywhere to the effect that the Linux community in the ‘well to do’ parts of the world come together to make as many copies as they can of their respective distros and send them to potential user communities in developing parts of the world.
Yes I am talking about a concept similar to Canonical’s Shipit program, but run by the user community itself. More like a practical illustration of Ubuntu. So for instance, at every Ubuntu release, the community can come together to make as many CDs as possible to send to various potential users in not so well to do countries. 
Again, before talking about Shipit, please remember that Canonical as a company has limited resources, and cannot meet all the demands from users. My first CD of Ubuntu was Hardy which came via Shiptit, then Jaunty, when I requested one for Koala, I was told I’d reached my quota. 
Well, I doubt if that would be the same if it were a community run project. More like, all hands on deck! I really, really would like to hear what you think and if there is no such project anywhere, how you think we can start it.

7 Replies to “Linux in the developing world – Can the community help spread it?”

  1. In Brazil Windows is largely pirated among consumers. One strategy of Linux advocates down there is to offer to burn and ship CDs to people in country. Sometimes for the cost of shipping, other times for free but always with conditions to keep individuals helping out from getting swamped with requests. Although broadband access is reportedly expanding rapidly in major cities in Brazil, it is still relatively uncommon, making this sort of volunteer CD program worthwhile.

  2. This is where projects such as the Freedom Toaster comes into play.

    It addresses the very issue you describe, as it does take a large chunk of managed bandwidth to download the ISO.

    Mailing takes 5-6 weeks.

    Perhaps one could be demo'd at Idelo in May??

    They are easily manufactured (PDF plans are on the website)


  3. Yes Adam, such a project goes a long way to help. Trust me, most people just do not know there is something other than Windows out there. If only more of such projects could be undertaken, then Linux would stand a greater chance of conquering the developing worlds.

    Hi Ms. Parker, certainly, a demo of the vending machine would be great, save that I would not be there to see it :-(.

  4. "When I was younger" … Public domain floppy exchange was a quite common way to get software. Now it has almost disappeared but it could still work in many countries with poor internet coverage.

    (It could also become a little business for internet cafes for example but not a long living one)

  5. I would be willing to mail an install CD to anyone in the world who needs one if I could have a reasonable assurance that it would be used and shared. About a year ago, dedoimedo made a similar post where the point was made that the CD needs to include (or provide an additional CD) multi-media codecs and updates. Again, if I have an good mailing address to use, I am willing to send a CD. All we really need is a community website where one can request a CD and another can respond to the request.

  6. I live in Nepal. Accessibility isn't the issue. It's the addiction to Windows (pirated or otherwise). It will take more than a free piece of plastic to convince people to stop paying $1 for the software they've always used.

    I'm familiar with the issue because I run a company that promotes OSS in Nepal in an effort to reduce piracy and add value to Nepali businesses.

  7. @stlouisubntu please i wish to know what can be done for the spread linux CD project ???
    am currently living in cameroon an am the promoter of an organisation whose aim is to promote ICT at the level of the community.

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