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RealTime IT News

South African Local Governments Use Illegal Software

[SOUTH AFRICA] - According to Ultra Network Solutions (UNS), 20-30 percent of Microsoft products being used by the South African local authorities is unlicensed, with the rate for some applications like Microsoft office as high as 50 percent.

Ultra Network Solutions arrived at the figure while working on the networks of the local governance bodies they are involved with -- they are helping the metropolitans of the greater Gauteng area with their networks and desktop management.

According to Ken Marsdens of UNS, this high figure results from a lack of understanding rather than criminal intent. Many don't understand the licensing procedures and obligations Microsoft demands.

With the purchase of any Microsoft product, a paper trail must be created and preserved. Often this was left in the hands of network administrators, or even the desktop users themselves. If the piece of paper granting your license is lost, your license is lost, and many fail to understand this and other issues.

After discussions with Microsoft, UNS decided to hold a conference addressing the issues of licensing, usage and upgrading with interested municipalities. Present at the event were IT managers from the local councils, Microsoft staff and network specialists from UNS.

Subsequent to the conference, the Edenvale/Modderfontein Metropolitan Local Council audited their systems, legalizing desktop applications and operating systems. UNS hopes to audit the systems of other local councils falling under the Megacity's jurisdiction in the near future.

Intellectual property is an ill-treated thing in the digital age. Lacking tangible presence, easily copied and distributed, ownership is easy to overlook. When it comes to software, the different licensing privileges e.g. how many machines you can load Windows on- is often not known or considered.

This case demonstrates that until the general public is educated on the existence and legalities of intellectual properties, intellectual property violation will continue to be unacceptably high.

The level of unlicensed products in governmental use is below the national software piracy figure, which is 47 percent according to the Business Software Alliance (BSA). The BSA is currently offering an amnesty, under which companies not under current investigation from the BSA are exempt