The Internet: Achilles heel of Linux Nigeria
When you talk of Linux then you must not fail to mention the presence of the internet– just like the two sides of a coin. Or a better still Linux is like a ripple and the internet water. The internet was substantially influential for its birth, and now its continuous evolution. A very good example of this fact in the present time is that almost any Linux distro (and FOSS softwares) is distributed on the internet. This has enabled the spread of the OS to parts of the world where it would have been difficult to penetrate — thanks very much for the internet.
No doubt in Nigeria, like most other parts of world, is largely dominated by proprietary OSes like Windows and Macintosh. And Linux is gaining grounds a little but it’s kind of snaily which is not encouraging. And one of the reasons for this is the close-knit relationship between Linux and the internet — which as earlier said could be seen as both a blessing and a curse (for low internet penetrated countries like Nigeria) as it hinders the adoption of the OS.
The major ways in which internet affect the adoption of Linux for personal use in Nigeria can be classified or placed into two broad categories;
- The average cost of internet in Nigeria is pretty expensive, and
- The unavailability of infrastructure (software and hardware) for personal connection of a Linux desktop to the internet.
COST TO CONNECT
Though the cost of internet connectivity in Africa, Nigeria in particular, is somewhat improving with the advent of android phones that are pre-packaged with internet hotspot, but the pace is snail-like. Especially when compared with other climes of the world. The major way in which users connect to the internet if through the provision of mobile broadband services by ISPs. Though this has led to the increase in access to internet, as can be obvious from the death of cyber cafes and a 12-year-old can now get online in his room, but nowhere near the cost of that access. This access has increased with the proliferation cheap android devices (phablets), so when statistic of broadband penetration is given it represents a large chunk (over 90%) of mobile internet and not the traditional PC/desktop. The flat (pay-as-you-go) rate for connecting to the internet is 5kobo/kb, which is about 51.2naaira /mb and 52,428.8naiara/Gb (that’s about $264/Gb). This can kind of over the scale internet tariff affects the adoption of PC Linux in the country, leaving it in the hands of a very few enthusiasts. And the big excuse given by telecom companies include that they it cost a lot to power their cell towers to keep it running.
An annoying aspect of this exorbitant internet pricing is the speed of the internet connection. Most times after subscribing to an internet bundle, users find themselves faced with very slow internet connection — taking hours to download just a hundred megabyte file for example. There’re some locations that are very poor in network reception. Even at particular times of the day, it is difficult to load a 1mb webpage — maybe because of the number of users during such times or in a bad weather condition.
When this is the case, how would Linux which is a do-it-yourself type of OS whose existence is internet based, be an attractive alternative to windows and the mac? This is one of those questions that face every sincere proponent of FOSS in the country.
LACK OF LINUX INTERNET INFRASTRUCTURAL SUPPORT
This is the other aspect of this big “Linux internet dilemma”. Most ISP in the country only hardly give software support for Linux. For instance when you get a usb modem (the only PC internet connection method) of any ISP, the software drivers that accompany them only support Windows and Mac — they just won’t release Linux drivers or provide programming information about them. And when you get an operating system not just without an internet connect, but no possibility of even connecting in the future, then there is a real problem. This would very bad for new Linux converts. And sometimes it gets funny when you call their customer care agents to try to rectify it, you’d get a “what are you saying?” or “what is Linux?” reply on the phone as if you are talking about the software that powers alien spaceships. If they don’t even have a clue of what you’re saying, how can they provide solution to this problem? It is very sad to say.
I hope things get better in the future, it would be better for Linux and FOSS in Nigeria.
First published in FossNaija.