October 27, 2003

Open Asia: Open source in the UAE and Vietnam

Author: Frederick Noronha

We conclude our country-by-country survey of the availability of open source software across Asian countries with a look at the state of open source software in the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

United Arab Emirates

The UAE is home to the Dubai Linux User Group and the Linux Users Group at Etisalat College of Engineering.


A good starting place for learning about FLOSS in Vietnam is the Asian Open Source Centre. User groups include VietLUG and Ho Chi Minh LUG. Vietnamese localization projects are under way for both Gnome and KDE.

Vietnamese expatriates are also doing their bit to promote FLOSS
in their language and region. Le Hong Boi's Vietnamese Linux enables Linux to use Vietnamese characters.

Tran Luu Chuong, IT advisor with Vietnam's Ministry of Science and Technology, made this presentation at infoDev about how Vietnam faces open source software.

Stefan Probst offers a financial argument for the success of open source software in the country:

MS Office is probably something in the 400 to 600
USD price range. A Vietnamese office worker gets a monthly salary of
50 USD (State offices) to let's say 150 USD (well paid private
business) - with an average probably around 100 USD. There is IMO NO
WAY that MS is going to be able to sell their office packages to
their price in Vietnam on a larger scale. At least not as long as
there is OpenOffice available. The issue is a bit different for the
OS, which is cheaper, and where end-user alternatives for the time
being are not yet really available. But until that time that they
can go for it, there might be good alternatives....

Jordi Carrasco-Muñoz of the EC Delegation to
Vietnam argues that 'development' organisations in the First World should throw their weight behind Free/Libre
and Open Source Software. He argues that in a country like Vietnam, where the GDP per capita is $440 per year, Microsoft Windows XP and Office Pro would cost one year and ten month's wages of the average Vietnamese. "The cost-equivalent for the US, where the GDP per
capita is $30,200 per year, would be $38,436 for just XP and Office," he
argues. Therefore is it very surprising that the percentage of
illegally copied (or what the corporations prefer to
call pirated) software in Vietnam is 97%, he asks?

Probst points out that the situation in Vietnam "is probably a bit
unique. If one looks at a list of most spoken languages, for
pretty much all the other more spoken languages (Spanish, English, French,
Chinese, Hindi, Arabic, etc.) there exist versions of MS software.
Vietnamese is the first one in that list where there
is no reasonable working version. Open Source is therefore critical to
make local translations of software. Nobody cares about whether
you are allowed to do so or not."

Robert J. Chassell, a founding director of the Free Software Foundation, responds, "Yes, and if Vietnam becomes a 'successful
country' -- one that outsiders think may well grow economically -- then you
can expect the US trade representative to begin to press the local
government to arrange that more and more money be paid to a lawbreaking US
corporation, and to others outside the country. This has happened in
Malaysia. But it will not happen if everyone expects Vietnam to continue as
a failure.

"If Microsoft were trying to exploit Vietnam, a marketing person
would expect it to provide inexpensive copies of its software, get people
accustomed to its user interface and data formats, and then, if the market
comes to look promising (a big question in Vietnam), raise the price to some
users -- those who can pay -- while continuing to provide inexpensive copies
to students and others."


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