Zimbabwe topped the list of African nations with the highest illegally copied software with a 91 percent rate, according to a new report from the Business Software Alliance (BSA). Georgia, which has a 93 percent rate, was ranked as the number one culprit of software piracy in the world and Bangladesh, Moldova and Yemen were tied for third with 90 percent.
The nations with the lowest rates were the United States (20 percent), Japan (20 percent), Luxembourg (20 percent) and New Zealand (22 percent).
The most common form of software piracy is buying a single license for a program and installing it on multiple computers: 60 percent of users incorrectly think this is legal at home, and 47 percent think it is legal at work (including 51 percent in emerging economies). Worldwide, pirated software usage rose to 43% from 41%.
According to the report titled, “2010 Global Software Piracy study,” $59 billion worth of software was stolen across the globe in 2010, and the driving force behind the trend is piracy in the world’s emerging economies, where the personal computer market is growing fastest.
The BSA’s eighth annual study said that piracy rates on the African continent are on the rise. Zambia, Nigeria, Cameroon and Algeria all maintain piracy numbers of 82 percent at a total commercial value of more than $300 million.
Other countries, such as Libya, Senegal, Kenya and Tunisia have their figures between 72 percent and 88 percent. Egypt and Morocco have one of the lowest software piracy rates of 60 percent and 65 percent.
“The software industry is being robbed blind,” said BSA President and CEO Robert Holleyman. “Nearly $59 billion worth of products were stolen last year — and the rates of theft are completely out of control in the world’s fastest-growing markets. The irony is people everywhere value intellectual property rights, but in many cases they don’t understand they are getting their software illegally.”
“Software piracy is an urgent problem for the whole economy, not just the software industry, because software is an essential tool of production,” Holleyman said. “Businesses of all sorts rely on software to run their operations. Properly licensed companies are being unfairly undercut when their competitors avoid overhead costs by stealing software tools.”
Tedmore Bvunda, a technoligist in Harare said that copying of software was expedient because Zimbabwe did not have access to online payment processes which made it difficult to purchase genuine software on time.
“Open source software is vital for developing countries who have already a lot against them in terms of balance of payments. In the most radical sense, its the same as how the west took away our resources and are continuing to do so,” said Bvunda.
“In Zimbabwe, accessibility of licensed software is not easy compared to other countries. Its easier for people to share a copy of Microsoft Windows, for example. Affordability is also an issue,” said Soul Kabweza, founder of TechZim.
“There’s no go-to place to get software so what do you get people just share and use and if there were goto places for computer software you’d find that people can’t afford genuine copies,” he said.
Kabweza added that open source software could help to rectify the situation in Zimbabwe because it is free to use and redistribute.
“What using open source means is that you use a legal product and you get all security updates for it and support from the open source community,” he added.
However, Kabweza said use of illegal pirated software had serious disadvantaged because such software is ineligible for security updates which exposes users to malicious software attacks.
“There are open source alternatives for most of the commercial software that people illegally use. the problem is people are not aware of the alternatives,” he said, adding that the premise of the BSA study was rather flawed because Zimbabwe is not a major market for major software companies.
Mike Mwale, Managing Director for Trenworth Business Solutions and Software Architects said that he was not surprised that there were high rates of software piracy in the country.
“There has been a proliferation of cheap PCs and laptops from China and Dubai, and people just opt to pirate software because they cannot afford the huge cost of software. Take for example, Microsoft Office costs almost US$500, and that’s just the dealer price, excluding taxes – and that’s just for one one license,” he said. “Software is out reach for corporate and ordinary people on the street so they definitely resort pirated software.”