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The Economist: Open Source's Local Heroes

Dec 15, 2003, 17:00 (4 Talkback[s])

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"Its popularity is growing around the world, but open-source software has particular appeal in developing countries. In China, South Korea, India, Brazil and other countries, governments are promoting the use of such software which, unlike the proprietary kind, allows users to inspect, modify and freely redistribute its underlying programming instructions. The open-source approach has a number of attractions. Adopting open-source software can reduce costs, allay security concerns and ensure there is no danger of becoming too dependent on a foreign supplier. But there is another benefit, too: because it can be freely modified, open-source software is also easier to translate, or localise, for use in a particular language. This involves translating the menus, dialogue boxes, help files, templates and message strings to create a new version of the software.

"Large software vendors have little incentive to support any but the most widely spoken languages. Microsoft, for example, provides its Windows 2000 operating system in 24 languages, and Windows XP in 33. The company also supports over 20 languages in the latest version of its Office software suite. Yet for many languages, commercial vendors conclude that producing a localised product is not economically viable..."

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