Most Bangladeshis reading this article on the web are probably using a PC loaded with a pirated copy of Microsoft Windows. Are there any legal options to use similar software without paying $500 per PC for MS Windows and MS Office?
Yes there are. Open source software can be downloaded for free and used legally instead of pirated software. This can and will protect companies and government departments in Bangladesh from future software piracy lawsuits.
Open source is a powerful movement transforming the software and information industry worldwide. It is a global community of companies and individual programmers that have produced robust and complex software applications. Open source developers have proved that they can produce solutions equal to or better than proprietary programs, and also making these available free of cost for anyone to use.
Many people and companies in Bangladesh are already using open source software of which the most common ones are:
Linux Mint / Ubuntu Linux operating systems (Google’s Android mobile operating system is another variant of Linux).
Mozilla Firefox or Google Chrome (the most popular web browsers).
OpenOffice / LibreOffice – Free word processing, spreadsheets and presentations, all compatible with MS Office, without any license fee.
Mozilla Thunderbird – a replacement for MS Outlook/Outlook Express e-mail.
Gimp, a replacement for Adobe Photoshop.
VLC player, which plays most formats of video/audio files.
These are just a few examples of great open source software that anyone can download and use for free. Any computer science student can modify the software and improve it as they like, developing their programming skills in the process. Businesses and government organisations requiring customised business solutions can hire a software company to customise existing open source software for them; this is cheaper than developing software from the ground up and much more affordable than buying commercial software from companies like Microsoft
Businesses executives and government officials in particular should become familiar with open source software and technologies, as these are applicable for every industry and organisational activity. Many organisations worldwide are moving to open source software to lower costs without any compromise in quality.
Open source alternatives for businesses have been growing in numbers: website content management systems (CMS), enterprise resource planning (ERP), human resources management (HRM) and project management are all organisation activities which can be managed by free open source alternatives.
Running a web/software development firm, I prefer to use Linux operating system and content management systems (CMS) like Word Press and Drupal, along with many other open source technologies to help our clients save costs.
There is no longer any point developing most business systems from zero. Why reinvent the wheel?
The economics which I see in my company applies everywhere. Hence open source business models are emerging around the world. Software companies can use tested and tried software from the open source community and sell customised versions of these to their clients, where the cost of modification is much lower than any other option. These businesses can choose to contribute back to the community or create a custom solution, which may be proprietary for a specific or multiple businesses using open source.
It is a popular misconception that open source software is developed by unpaid volunteers, and hence unreliable. In fact, most open source developers are employed by companies who use or sell open source software, and contribute their time to the community development of the software they use because doing so saves them money.
Currently, Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws are not strongly enforced in Bangladesh, and software piracy is widespread. However, the situation is changing rapidly. Large Bangladeshi organisations are already getting letters from multinational software companies asking how many copies of unlicensed software they have on their PCs, which is always a precursor to launching a lawsuit to realise the license fee. Bangladeshi companies and government departments can protect themselves by adopting open source software.