Despite the flurry of “genuine Windows” and antivirus programs in Colombo’s tech scene, piracy is still rampant throughout the country. An official survey conducted by the Daily Mirror puts the piracy rate at a staggering 84%. That’s 8 people out of ten who are using pirated software.
Instead of repeating the results of this survey, let’s discuss what this means and why this situation exists. I think every Sri Lankan will agree to one thing – genuine software is expensive. Consider a piece of software for $60. For a worker in the United States, paid the absolute minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, that’s less than 9 hours work of work – at minimum salary. Contrast that with the Sri Lankan economy , where even $10 a day is considered a mid-level salary. That $60 hits a Sri Lankan worker much harder than it does their counterpart in the United States or other, comparatively developed nations. When their minimum wage – even for an uneducated laborer – is on level with what most of our trainee executives make, spending $60 on an abstract thing like software is almost out of the question for most of Sri Lanka.
So fancy throwing in Rs. 19,000 for a genuine copy of Windows 7 Home Premium? To the average Sri Lankan, that’s a very hefty chunk out of their salary. Given today’s prices, that could be the difference between starving for a month and going to work with a full belly. Now when a cracked copy can be obtained for much less – as in, free, what’s the logical choice? Original software is a luxury that most of the population simply cannot afford.
Simply put, that 84% use pirated software out of necessity, not out of choice. That gap is simply too large for us to bridge.
The solution is not enforcing anti-piracy laws: the solution is better pricing or better salaries. It’s impossible to give software away for free. Still, forcing people to pay for something they can’t afford is not the optimal path. Until people can actually afford software without going hungry, the software piracy rate is going to remain – and there’s little anyone can do about it.
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