Subject: Re: Software as a public service
From: Santiago Gala <>
Date: Fri, 13 May 2005 15:56:00 +0200
Fri, 13 May 2005 15:56:00 +0200
El vie, 13-05-2005 a las 16:10 +0900, Stephen J. Turnbull escribió:
> In any case, "software" is a scarce resource, ie, more of it would be
> somehow useful to someone somewhere.  Otherwise you would not have a
> job, right?

I'm currently unemployed now that you say it... well, not really, I'm
teaching 5 hours per week of software engineering in a University,
telling young students how to kill dragons, now that I noticed that
dragons don't really exist (borrowing from the nice tale from the
Bourbaki group about maths). Barely enough to pay my rent.

>  The correct statement is that "any given program, once
> written, is no longer scarce, under the assumptions of perfect
> information about its nature and availability, and zero communication
> and storage costs."

We are speaking here of programs that a contractor wrote for a public
admin. Both parties, once the contract is delivered, have incentives to
promote reuse of the code, and the marginal cost of allowing it to both
parties (and, just in case, to all third parties benefiting from, say,
clever indexing and searching techniques "a la" Google) makes perfect

So yes, I think information about nature and availability is an area
where I would like seeing people competing rather than raising
artificial barriers.

OTOH, communication and storage costs are going to zero really fast (see
gmail 1->2 gigs move and the April 1st joke that Google did as a clever

i.e. I would like to leave the judgement about how close we are to
perfect information to the market, and assume that communication and
storage costs are zero. In fact, the perfect information criteria would
still give some competitive advantage to the company that developed the
software originally, if they are clever enough to do their internal
knowledge management (strong assumption for most 20th century corps).

This is precisely where the overall/public gain is coming: companies
that don't properly care about their knowledge processes will be blown
away very fast by other companies and individuals, and we would see a
much more dynamic market than we are seeing. (Typical WTO argument when
applied to cocoa, t-shirts or cars, which they carefully hide when it
comes to speak about information)

To say it in other words: if you are right and the four assumptions are
not true, companies would not be more and more concerned about using IP
laws to protect their contracts... (reductio ad absurdum coming)

Santiago Gala <>
High Sierra Technology, SLU

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