The World Bank on FLOSS

From e-Development – Live Webcast:

Support and training are recurrent costs that constitute two of the three largest costs in the total cost of ownership model. They are greater than hardware costs and much higher than software fees.

Ultra-low cost computers and Linux-based solutions are relatively equal in cost to traditional hardware and proprietary software solutions because they require higher labor and replacement costs over a five-year period.

The subject of this talk, the cost of technology in schools seemed interesting, but it’s also the world bank, who are notoriously whack.  This quote seemed really different than the speaker at IU’s Linuxfest who called Linux the great equalizer for developing technology/information-based economies.  My totally unquantifiable analysis is that the dichotomy between Ultra-low cost computers / Linux and traditional hardware and proprietary software is false.  Certainly IU’s Cyberinfrastructure is a good example of traditional hardware and Linux/other FLOSS infrastructure (granted IU does run RHEL, a commercial Linux package on a lot of its Big Iron).  More importantly though, I doubt the TCO calculations take into account the education that can come when student users have to learn how to support their own machines (which I believe was part of the ideas driving the early iterations of the OLPC project) and the culture of propogating learning that already exists around FLOSS.