" ITREALMS: ICT4D: Economic crunch, Free & Open Source


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Wednesday, February 04, 2009

ICT4D: Economic crunch, Free & Open Source

The extant speculative-economic induced financial crises of the Western hemisphere that is spreading like wild fire and reverberating in all nooks and corner of the global village is gaining momentum and gradually building up as a global economic depression.

With rapid development and pervasiveness of Internet connectivity and the increasing global human interactiveness, the awareness of the negative global economic phenomenon has been swift. As humanity is increasingly becoming dependent on the world-wide Internet connectivity through the development and possibilities of unlimited multi-layered services that the Internet technologies enable, it seems, will provide the catalyst to trigger the next economic development and growth.

The future global sharing economic consciousness will considerably deviate from the current selfish consumer oriented materialist economics, valued solely for wealth aggrandizement. The sharing economics will be oriented towards community and sharing.

In other words, the future economic practices will be measured in terms of shared value. In this regard, future economic value is reflective on the consumer margin – the cheaper or easily affordable a commodity or service is, the greater the number of consumer and therefore, the more value the attribute.

The philosophy behind the technology to propel the new global economic dispensation is seen solely in the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movement. Community will once again become the driving force of every human development and sharing will be the ultimate outcome.

Businesses will readily adopt FOSS in order to be competitive and meet a high productive consumer margin. Economic growth will become a global phenomenon and be sought world-wide within the reaches of the global village.

The economic environment of the future is global but the hot spots will be the developing countries, like Nigeria, with sizable poverty stricken populace. The developed economies are already engulfed in a continuous cycle of structural adjustment with no end in sight. The diminishing return cycle induced economic adjustment in the developed world will continue until it reaches the level of dependency on the developing economies in order to satisfy and maintain the Western consumptive addiction. In other words, the most uneconomical environments of today are the most promising economic centers of tomorrow.

Hitherto, the developing and underdeveloped economies of the world have grappled with the twin problem of development and under-performing economies. The irreconcilable up-hill-task burden of development challenging the developing nations has no ebb in sight as the order of relationship between the developed economies and the developing economies is looped in a vicious circle of a competitive economic order. Indeed, not one single so called “developed” nation has taken off the development-working-gloves for a moment’s rest. In actual fact, they are all still developing! In order to change the unfair economic status quo inherent in the relations between the “developing” and “the developed”nations, the consumption oriented ultra-capitalist economic ideology ought to give way to a rationally tempered economic ideology of reasoning: An economic ideal that is fair and people oriented. Michael Schumacher in the book, Small Is Beautiful, may have implied the ‘reasoning’ criteria when he proposes an economy ‘with a human face’ or what he referred to as the Buddhist economics.
Now that the chicken of the developed economies are coming home to roost and the high walls behind the Western economic manipulative fingers are crumbling, revealing unruly gaming economic schemes, the developing economies (especially Nigeria) should immediately head back to the drawing board to question, understand and discover every loophole in the adopted model of the Western economic blueprint that has, hitherto, failed them and redraw a new independent economic plan that is persistent and locally sustainable.

The current global economic depression that is building up will eventually reach its peak, but it will stretch the boundaries of human imaginations and creativity, giving rise to a new economic order that is bracketed in community and sharing. The shift in economic value will open new ways of seeing things and usher in novel technological solutions that are essentially communal, all-embracing, affordable and readily available. Humanity would readily grasp the wisdom to see the folly in the development of technologies targeting a handful of the global population. Thus, the ideal of inventions and technologies that is designed and implemented for all of humanity at a go would constitute the primary question in scientific thinking and the philosophy of science.

Technology is not God. Technology does not reside any where. Technology does not belong to anyone. Technology is everywhere. In fact, techné is the art or process or know-how or means to an end or outcome. Technology is derived from the Greek word techné (which could as a matter of fact be originally Egyptian). Thus, technology is simply a combined articulation of thinking and organized process of reaching a predetermined outcome or solution. Therefore, from time immemorial, technology has accompanied even the most primitive of humanity and many animals. So, what is this fallacy about technology transfer? Is it not possible that one human being or animal can copy another human being or animal? When for example, A copies the knot tying skill of B, has B transferred his skill to A? Is there a technology transfer between A and B? After all, the first steam engine and the mother of all ever made engines is invented in Egypt. It was aptly copied by other human beings who saw the usefulness of the steam mobility. What is stopping people in the developing world from copying? What is stopping Nigerians from copying existing technologies even if we are too reluctant to develop ours? Again, Nigeria is endowed with huge population and human resources, massive raw material deposits and excellent weather conditions. What is stopping intelligent Nigerians from developing or copying existing technologies to eradicate poverty in Nigeria?

Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is truly what the name implies. Granted that we in the developing world is so scared to copy technologies from the developed world, are we also not capable of using FOSS that we are even encouraged to rip and use, hook line and sinker? People in the developing world like Nigeria need not pay a dime on software if they adopt, adapt and develop FOSS. What can we not do: from desktop to servers and VoIP platforms to super computers.
In 2004 Nigerian software import was close to US 1 billion dollars. http://www.nsdi.org.ng/chairman%27s_statement.pdf . That kid of money expended on software could be directed to vital infrastructural development.

Nigeria and similar developing nations deserve nothing short of a technological revolution that is pervasive, thorough and complete. Such a revolution would entail rethinking and guided by a simple methodology of bracketing everything we have hitherto, known and conceivable, in order to see the essences of all that we have ever known and can ever conceive, as purely as they are in themselves. Adapted to technological development, for instance, this will lead to a technological ground-zero but will form the basis of an epoch that will unleash novel technological thinking, innovativeness and creativity throughout the developing world and Nigeria specifically.

*Mr. Sunny Odum contributed this piece from Finland

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