When free is too expensive

Daniele Procida | Friday 14:30 | Assembly Room

We love free open-source software. We're vastly better-off thanks to it.

However, free software comes with various hidden costs that make it too expensive for many to adopt, or produce or be involved in. In many ways, free software is a luxury that can only be afforded by those who already have a surplus of time, money and other resources to dedicate to it.

We are used to the idea of building projects, skills, contacts, even industries as amateurs, hobbyists, spare-time enthusiasts.

But that is only possible when there already exists an established industry, networks,faith in the value of the technology and plenty of spare money, spare time, easy access to resources and information.

How does free software look from the perspective of those who don't have those? How can free software and free software communities work in contexts where everything else has to pay its way?

Our experience with the Namibian and wider African Python communities led us to some surprising insights, and forced us to reassess the value of free software and some of the ideas we took for granted.

In turn, it's clear that some of these insights apply more generally, and can help us - as advocates, users and creators of free software - to make our own work with it more sustainable.