By Kato Mivule | June 29, 2009
This past week has seen yet another maneuver by Microsoft’s fight against Software Piracy in Uganda but leaving observers as to what the real motives of Microsoft Corporation are in Africa. Press reports in Uganda showed that Microsoft has hired local legal teams to file charges against Ugandan Locals involved in the illegal acquisition of Microsoft’s Products.
“MICROSOFT, the world’s leading software manufacturer, has contracted Kampala Associated Advocates to fight software piracy in Uganda. Dr. Charles Kallu Kalumiya, one of the firm’s senior partners, said over the weekend that Microsoft sought their services to enforce intellectual proprietary rights. “Microsoft hired us after discovering a loss of billions of shillings,” Kalumiya said. “Time is up for these pirates, who hitherto operated with impunity,” he stated…”
Microsoft hires city lawyers| 21st June, 2009| http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/13/685485
There is no doubt that Software Piracy thrives in Kampala, Uganda’s Capital and that Software companies and vendors almost make no money through the sale of proprietary software. However, the trouble with Microsoft’s approach is that they are not dealing with the root cause of the problem of Software Piracy in Uganda. The trouble with with Software Piracy in Africa is largely a Microsoft self created and self inflicted problem.
I am in no way agitating for the “freedom” of Software Piracy, nor do I condone any kind of theft of Proprietary Software. I do design Databases, and while in Uganda, I found it very difficult to market or even sell any Database System to anyone simply because folks would get one free for pay little fee for a pirated copy. Secondly, you would design and develop a Database System for one entity, only to find it distributed free across town.
The problem is economical and larger than just Software Piracy of Microsoft’s Products. Microsoft has made their products very expensive to purchase and market their products in Africa as if selling to America’s Middle Class. No one in Africa is willing to pay 450 US Dollars for just a Copy of Windows Vista or Microsoft Office for use at home or in a small business office.
Though there is a growing Middle Class in Africa, the earnings of such a class cannot afford a 450 US Dollar proprietary software. 450 US Dollars is some one’s monthly Salary in Africa’s Middle Class. Yet still Microsoft has targeted schools and institutions of Higher Learning in Africa by “forcing” poor parents and students to pay as part of their tuition for Microsoft Proprietary Software on school computers. This is the same Microsoft that is sending out donations to Africa’s institutions in so-called efforts to “bridge the digital divide”…and the public outcry against Microsoft’s practices in Africa is just beginning…
“…Microsoft tried Nairobi and lost to a computer dealer having sued for $2m. Now it has come to Kampala. Almost everyone in Uganda uses pirated software! This is a poor country where the basic income for most people is way below a dollar a day. Uganda had to cut taxes on computers to enable our people in the rural areas benefit from the new computer era at an affordable price. Now in their wisdom, Microsoft think they can force Ugandans to buy software at $300 per user when Government-aided schools pay $50 to install the same software on 20 computers used by over 1,000 students!… If Microsoft cannot reduce the prices to poor countries’ standards, they are wasting their time bullying these countries. Thank you for trying to monopolise software development over the world, but let the poor be.”
Microsoft, give the poor a break | 23rd June, 2009 |http://newvision.co.ug/D/8/21/685689
While I deplore the acts of Software Piracy and what that means for hard working businesses, I have less pity for Microsoft as I think that Microsoft should change their business model in Africa to encourage a culture of respect for intellectual property and make Software products affordable in the African market. Microsoft should borrow a leaf from the successful African Telecom companies that are reaping ‘big time’ form high Cell Phone Subscriptions that are made very affordable to locals.
Still Microsoft’s efforts in Uganda will stall as Uganda’s copyright and interllectual property laws are full of flaws and generally outdated. Another fear is that Microsoft could use it’s legal and Dollar powers to bribe government officials into signing binding contracts with Microsoft for her products thus defusing competition fom other Software developers. Microsoft’s Software Policing in Africa is being viewed with suspision.