Ubuntu ("Linux for human beings") is a subject we've touched on here before (see, for instance, Ethan's piece "It's just like summer camp. With WiFi. In suburban Bangalore"), and we have an entry on it in the book.
Normally, I'd leave the discussion of Ubuntu to some of the other Worldchangers who are more expert than I in assessing technology. However, in one of those odd moments of synchronicity which the journalist in me cannot ignore, Ubuntu has been all over my morning:
Wikipedia's featured article today in on Ubuntu.
I read an online discussion mentioning the book Ubuntu Linux for Non-Geeks.
I got an email pointing me to this article about progress towards the $100 Laptop, which mentioned Ubuntu (though I think Ethan's latest piece on the One Laptop Per Child Project and their progress is frankly more informative).
Then, googling Ubuntu, I run smack dab into Ethan recommending this interesting post by Andrew Heavens questioning something we largely have taken for granted here: that free sofware like Ubuntu is great for the developing world.
Alex, it would be worthwile to read the comments posted on meskelsquare's blog too! They enlighten the problem with the original reasoning. A short overview:
1. free software means free as speach, not as beer
2. even if individual use is safe, business use is not. sooner or later microsoft won't let those people to use its software, and then the cost-benefit calculus might change
3. softwares create lock-in effects, this is the main reason why it is hard to switch. for this reason, it is in MS's best interest to let the poor/young people to use its software
So my conclusion would be, that the Etiopians' best interest would be to have their government, UN, etc to change from MS to opensource software.
And they'll mail you as many free CDs as you want! They also have a special version for educational settings, I believe.