The usefulness of Linux for the developing world is a regular theme here at WorldChanging. We've talked about Linux use in sub-Saharan Africa, Laos, Egypt, and, of course, Brazil. Now it's Iraq's turn.
"The World," a radio newsprogram co-produced by the BBC and PRI (Public Radio International) yesterday had a five-minute spot on the newly-formed Iraqi Linux User Group. You can download the story from this page; the direct link to the Windows Audio file is here. It's a good piece, and worth the five minute listen.
The website for the Iraqi Linux group is in English, and is interesting reading (particularly their rationale for using English rather than Arabic). It mixes the usual discussion boards and links to Linux resources with news reports on the use of open source in the developing world and connections to local Arabic/Farsi Linux sites. They're doing good work there, and I wish them well. (Apparently the site is subject to frequent vandalism; if it's unresponsive when you visit, or the front page doesn't look the way you'd expect, try back later.)
I don't really understand why Linux is so good for the third world. Sure, you don't have to pay for it, but pirating of Windows is so rampant that in places like China you basically don't have to pay for it, either. I would think that the most important qualification of a third-world system is that it never break, or if it does it should easy to repair. In this case everyone should be sending Macs out there (if price is a prolem, send second-hand ones.)
Because the source code is open and available, Linux is a good bootstrap for indigenous software development industries.
Because the command-line elements are fairly computing-resource efficient, Linux can run on hardware that would choke at the sight of Windows 2K or XP.
Because it's free (gratis), there's no question of Microsoft pushing through copyright and patent laws in your developing country which would require you to go back and pay for the pirated code, plus penalties.
Because it's free (libre), you can make alterations to it so as to fit your particular circumstances without question.
Linux is important as a technology inrastructure to build on, just like computer hardware, networking, etc are important, the software the make them run and support the specific business application(s) is equaly as important. take a look at a message I posted on slashdot (http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=111851&cid=9493964), should give you some insight on wether or not Iraq and Iraqis can handle Linux or not.
I have stories I lived first hand on mainframe systems were in buildings hit by cruise missiles in the 1991 war. These systems were rescued by literally digging them out of teh rubble and pick their piecies in pickup trucks and run them on an alternative place. One particular system that I had a personal experience with was 100% operational just 5 days after the datacenter it hosts in baghdad suffered a direct hit taking out he NOC. it was picked out of teh rubble through digging holes throiugh the outer building concret walls and all the way inside to where that machine was. And that was a heavy and large machine, witrh multiple peices. You can't usually suffer such a "CRASH" in any other part of the world, but Iraqis did and managed to bring teh system back up online. It ran UNIX by the way, and some of teh harddrives that had applications on them were damaged, new applications were written in those 5 days to restore operation.
Well, I agree with all what has been said here. But if a country's infrastructure is to be rehabilitated then it's better to build on something firm that will grant the beneficiaries some privileges to intigrate this new system into other old systems whenever replacing the old ones takes time.
The best option here is to get an Open Source rather than proprietary product that will enable extreme constumization to the required task. Flexibility is an imiportant factor when putting intigration into account, you see, and as not every part of the new technology infrastructure is being built from scratches, the value of costumized solution is seen greatly here.
Now Linux is very important as being Open Source and can provide more than expected to do the task.