Subject: Re: Outside U.S. versus inside U.S.
From: Taran Rampersad <>
Date: Mon, 17 Mar 2003 14:36:12 -0800

Stephen J. Turnbull wrote:

>    Taran> The major factor is where the median income is, I think.
>Close enough.
Whew, lucky shot :)

>    Taran> The 20% who have the money are typically the ones that have
>    Taran> businesses, therefore would be more interested in cost
>    Taran> reductions... and they are.
>Sure.  The question is how to get those cost reductions.  My implicit
>rule of thumb was "if it's a marketed commodity, you need to be able
>to do it in-house at 50% of the cost (equivalently, 200% of the
>quality), else just buy it in the market."  In the so-called advanced
>economies, most "business services" have commodity versions with that
>kind of economics for most businesses.  Thus "virtual firms" are a
>plausible, even viable, concept.  I doubt this is true in T&T.
Right. The main issue is probably that 260,000 people (given a 
population of 1.3 million, 20%) are running businesses, and even less 
are concerned with IT. The IT gap - digital divide, as it were - seems 
to be at steady state. One of my theories is that adoption of FOSS would 
decrease the digital divide by making technology more available to the 
20%, as well as the 80%... and this also has the issue of economic 
upheaval, where some people may dance between the groups. At the least, 
the divide between the groups would be decreased. I'm way over my head 
here... I'm an engineer type trying to get my head around 
macroeconomics. Scary.

I *think* that the decrease of the digital divide between developing 
countries and the developed countries would be a side effect of 
widespread use of FOSS, and there's certain to be resistance from the 
developed countries in this regard - notably proprietary software. One 
could look at it as a social evil, I suppose, but I see it as a simple 
reality. If I were selling software to other countries, it would be in 
my best interest to continue doing so. The same with FOSS, though to a 
lesser degree.

Following this thought, when FOSS is bought from a developed country (as 
does happens, and as it should be), and it is later forked into more 
geographic specific areas then local developers get work (yet many local 
developers migrated for jobs). As an example, financial software would 
need to be adapted to handle local taxes, etc. Therefore, the 
geopolitical (taxes, politics) would have to drive the software to a 
point - perhaps even subsidizing it to some degree. Am I making sense?

>    Taran> The challenge in Trinidad and Tobago, as an example, is
>    Taran> that everyone wants what the rich people have. And the rich
>    Taran> people have computers running Windows.
>You have my sympathy.  I've heard this over and over again, from
>students, faculty, traders from many countries.  Sure, it presents a
>business opportunity for you, but it's got to hurt seeing the people
>around you using their feet for target practice that way.[1]
>    Taran> This is non-intuitive for me,
>Because you're thinking technically, and can evaluate the technical
>merits.  You also have little idea, I would guess, of what it would
>cost your doctor acquaintance, now dependent on his XP box, to lose
>the machine for a few days.  What else can he really do except hope
>that the "industry standard OS" that the machine was designed to run
>(see the sticker on the monitor?) works as well for him as it does for
>the Fortune 500 (as far as he can tell)?
>So give him _real_ hope.
Trying, trying, trying... family ties can be such knots. The truth is 
that he doesn't even use the software he uses effectively. This is also 
symptomatic... people are used to buying/(otherwise acquiring) their 
business logic from a shelf instead of (gasp) thinking... This is 
probably where I (and other developers involved with FOSS) need to grow 
from a business perspective and anticipate needs of consumers, much as 
proprietary software has done. Rapid evolution of the software does work 
once it is started.

>    Taran> Gates and company are very goodat what they do. But here's
>    Taran> where they are really slitting their own throats down here:
>    Taran> The updates.
>Could be.  It could also be that they don't really think there's
>profitable low end market there yet, and are counting on the
>notoriously short memory of consumers.  Or maybe the dramatic drop in
>costs of providing broadband.  "We'll see, won't we?"
True... there's something to the anti-Galileo perspective. Self centered 
is what I mean, but not with all the egotistical connotations.

>    Taran> Nothing I've been noticing in the U.S. seems to be
>    Taran> comparable to this situation. It's actually very fun.
>That was my point.
Well, thanks for your patience. :)

This is good stuff... I'll have to toss it around in my head a bit and 
consider all the different perspectives... Thanks a lot!