Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/832/19632
Take over software giants
The article "Private companies hold NHS to ransom" (Socialist 830) showed how giant software companies can exploit their near monopoly position. It isn't only the NHS that finds itself in this position. And apart from Microsoft, Adobe, McAfee and others are all at it.
As the article explains, Open Source software could be an alternative to continually handing over money to big business. Everyone would back that. One drawback - you have to support it yourself.
Free to use?
Even a small network of say, fifty users, would be hard to support without a dedicated team of skilled software engineers. The email system alone is horrendously complex to make secure and reliable. These costs tie even large companies to Microsoft and their ilk. 'Free to download' is not the same as 'free to use'.
The Open Source community can offer support and fixes, eventually. But when the boss stands next to your desk constantly, demanding to know where his emails are, it can be career limiting.
'In the cloud'
The next big wheeze is 'in the cloud' computing. You don't buy or own any software, but for a monthly per user fee you can rent it. That cranks up the dial on the treadmill to eleven.
These big companies will also keep all your data on their servers, which is very kind of them. Decline and decide to stick with what you've got, and you face having unsupported software that will become ever more out of date and vulnerable to attack from viruses. That's exactly the position the NHS was in.
Cloud computing is not necessarily a bad idea and might be developed in a socialist society. That is why the article rightly demands that "the huge IT companies should be run under democratic working class control and management".
In The Socialist 5 November 2014:
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