If we want bigger software markets, we need to develop the developers who will create them. That's the lesson I take from this article on HIV research. Researchers are learning that it's a Very Good Thing to enable local scientists in Uganda and elsewhere to tackle HIV research, in large part because the closer someone is to the problem, the better positioned they are to think intelligently about how to solve it.
"Old fashioned 'parachute science' -- where scientists from the developed world flew in, bled a few patients, and immediately returned to their country of origin with their samples, are no longer required or acceptable. In-house development and research is an effective and efficient way forward," said Professor Frances Gotch, one of the commentary's authors from the Division of Investigative Science at Imperial College....
"Western governments and funding agencies need to continue to build capacity and train future generations of scientists and doctors on-site in new technologies," added Professor Gotch. "Countries need resources to maintain and sustain not only the facilities and equipment, but also staff in these countries who are trained and motivated. It is most important to give countries the capacity to train the trainers in their country so that knowledge can be shared and developed there."
I spent the last few days listening to systems integrators talk about how hard it was to develop their markets because the software they've had available to implement has been too expensive and too rigid for their markets. Most proprietary software companies actually charge more for their software in developing markets because of the costs of localization and support. (Seems ironic, no? If Country X can't afford $1, why charge it $2?)
Open source offers a way to "train the trainer," as it were, but it requires that software companies think beyond the quarter to start developing the people who will create the next-generation markets. This isn't charity. It's capitalism.