I live in Texas where the sport of American Football is king of all sports. In Allen TX, the school district is building a sixty million dollar football stadium. Some may consider this extravagant for a high school. For Texans, high school football is big business.
It may seem a stretch to relate these sports to IP and specifically software, but since Ghana sent the U.S. packing in the 2010 World Cup, something has been nagging me. Why is it that Ghana can beat the U.S. in soccer? Looking at the U.S. Department of State’s data on Ghana, one key point is that per capita income is $671. This confirms something about soccer: it only takes a ball. If a kid wants to learn the game – no matter their income – it only takes a ball. Look at what U.S. taxpayers have to subsidize for kids and professionals to play American Football. It is staggering. Look at all of the gear that families have to acquire so a kid can simply walk out on the field. Look at the trainers and the training facilities. Youth soccer? A kid needs to be able to run and have time with a ball. Even grass is not mandatory. This is how Ghana beats the U.S. It shows that our culture will have to change if we are to succeed internationally in this sport.
In the U.S., people and companies are perfectly willing to pay whatever premium for software – the American Football. Notice that all commercial operating systems and major office applications are authored in the U.S. We gladly pay this for two reasons: 1) as a percentage of our income, it’s far less than what exists in the rest of the world, and 2) we think we are getting the best product.
Open source software can provide to the people of Ghana an avenue to the world stage of technology as soccer can for the World Cup. There are non-profit entities that are giving away hardware to children all across the globe so they can learn computer science. Governments are wondering if running proprietary systems from a foreign country is such a good idea, both from a cost and security perspective. As time passes by, systems will get less expensive, easier to power, more portable. All people will have opportunities that they have never had before. The question is, as the world changes before our very eyes, will the U.S. citizenry care, or will we still be focused on the Super Bowl?