Bernard Golden has an insightful commentary on recent reports that IT spending has topped 6% of global GDP. (Gartner Group has noted that IT spending should hit $3.1 trillion in 2007, with a forecast of $3.3 trillion in 2008.) His take? The numbers are high and, at best, reflect high spending in developed nations while not accounting for the relatively low IT spend in developing nations. (Note that this European Union paper pegged the information economy at ~10% of GDP for most developed nations.)
It's a good point. High or not, however, the real question is why so much money is thrown away on proprietary software when it could be spent on the gift that keeps on giving: open source.
I'm in Buenos Aires, Argentina this week to visit my parents. (They're living here for three years on church service, so I'm hoping to ski a few times here before they're through. :-) What would happen if Argentina stopped shipping dollars to Redmond, Armonk (IBM), and Redwood Shores (Oracle) and reinvested those pesos in its local economy (developers, SIs, etc.)?
Well, the EU found the following:
Increased FLOSS [Free, Libre, Open Source Software] use may provide a way for Europe to compensate for a low GDP share of ICT [IT] investment relative to the US. A growth and innovation simulation model shows that increasing the FLOSS share of software investment from 20% to 40% would lead to a 0.1% increase in annual EU GDP growth excluding benefits within the ICT industry itself ? i.e. over Euro 10 billion annually.
Investing in open source is a way to invest in one's community/country. This same report found that open source accounts for roughly 12 billion Euros in value (as of 2006), which roughly doubles every 18-24 months. As such, there's plenty of raw material out there with which to work. There is exceptional ECM, CRM, ERP, database, application server, operating system, etc. software out there. Why not use it?
I don't mind seeing the occasional McDonalds, Citibank, etc. as I drive the streets of Buenos Aires. But I'd rather see more empanadas stands and Grupo Banco Popular(s). Argentina should be the center of its own economy. So should Madagascar, the United States, and Russia. Open source is the way to achieve this in IT.