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Open-source services show signs of growth in Africa

o Rebecca Wanjiku
24.05.2010 kl 19:08 | Computerworld Kenya

Changing procurement rules and regulations, increased uptake of open-source-based certification and growth in the software and hardware markets has led to the rise of businesses that were previously ignored.

 

Changing procurement rules and regulations, increased uptake of open-source-based certification and growth in the software and hardware markets have led to the rise of businesses that were previously ignored.

Open-source-service business executives in South Africa, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya and Tanzania last week shared experiences of how technology businesses have grown at a Free and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) meeting in Ghana. Many of those involved in the business expect the open-source services market to get bigger within the year.

Most open-source software service companies were considered too small to get big contracts and did not have the capital to invest in technical support compared to established proprietary software companies.

"The best way for a small software-service business to grow is through localization and offering relevant solutions to the people; if there is no value to the community, businesses will not grow," said Keutlwile Leso, technical lead at Molemi NGS, based in South Africa.

Access to the Internet and affordability has led more businesses to pursue customized software solutions, which has increased the number of businesses offering software services.

Governments have been considered the largest consumers because e-government services and the integration of local payment solutions such as mobile gateways has made local developers attractive.

"Integrating legacy systems with new technologies is attractive to many local governments," added Leso, whose company has customized software for one of the large local government authorities is South Africa.

Procurement policies in many countries have been criticized for being vendor-specific, especially in PC procurement, but increased awareness from governments seems to have borne fruit.

"Government procurement procedures have changed to be technology-neutral; in Tanzania, the government has a policy that allows all software vendors to have a level playing field," said Hector Mongi, assistant lecturer at the University of Dodoma, Tanzania.

Part of the challenge of growing businesses is lack of certification. Most techies learn online and in some cases they do not take online courses that have certificates, so it becomes hard to prove competence in big contracts.

Most participants in the Ghana meeting said they have had to take international certification courses, which have increased their business.

Keywords: Software  
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