Associated Press: Activists urge free open-source software
"Brazil spends more in licensing fees on proprietary software than it spends on hunger," according to Grateful Dead lyricist John Barlow speaking at the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
It's fun rhetoric but hard to know how accurate. Open-source is clearly top-of-mind on a lot of ministerial agendas but don't misread what that means. Last time I checked Microsoft was still doing big business down there and its emissaries still find open doors when they arrive in Brasilia.
Besides, Lula--President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva--has made combating hunger a top priority since coming into office a couple of years ago. I doubt he even knows how to operate a PC.
Barlow's comment stuck in my craw for another reason. American do-gooders who think they can solve the 3rd World's problems through the magic of open-source are simply smoking dope. It's awfully misleading to portray Brazil as a hopeless banana republic in hock because of onerous commercial sofware licenses. I go down there regularly and can tell you the reality is far more complex than the popular image of a tropical backwater. The cost of proprietary software is always going to be an issue for any South American republic but it's not Brazil's biggest problem -- not by a long shot.