Software and the New Colonialism

A colleague of mine recently attended a meeting between the Ministry of Education and representatives for a new initiative sponsored by Microsoft. On the face of it, the offer on the table was compelling: Microsoft Windows and Office licenses for sale at about 700 vatu each for educational institutions. Huge investment in flagship schools in Vanuatu, with hundreds of new PCs in total running all the latest software at prices never seen before. How could anyone refuse?

Microsoft is not the only company to come to the sudden realisation that there are about 5 billion people out there who don’t buy their product. Many major IT corporations have taken a look at the mature European and North American markets and decided to begin developing markets elsewhere in the world.

It’s a great opportunity for them. Junior and intermediate managers trying to make a name for themselves are leading the exploration. Rather than navigate the shark-infested waters of corporate HQ, they’re establishing new territories, trying out new tactics and creating new opportunities for themselves and their customers.

This is not a bad thing in and of itself. But it does need to be understood.

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A Matter of Trust

“We are inclined to believe those whom we do not know, because they have never deceived us.” These words belong to Samuel Johnson, a wise man indeed. St. Augustine looked at things from the other side and famously observed, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

We in Vanuatu have a distinct advantage over our neighbours in other countries. Our community is small enough that we can really get to know the movers and shakers in our society. It may take us time to become familiar with them, but if we have a mind to, we can learn the quirks and the capabilities of most of the people and organisations who can influence Vanuatu’s course and its future.

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Pink Dolphins

Pink dolphins are my idea, and I refuse to let anyone else think of them. Anybody who does think of pink dolphins must pay a royalty fee for each time they think of pink dolphins, multiplied by the number of pink dolphins they think of.

That last paragraph is a simple – and absurd – example of why so-called intellectual property is an oxymoron. If it’s intellectual, it can’t be property. The concept is based on the premise that ideas can be treated as things, and that’s just not true.

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