In all the years that I engaged in computer repair and software installation business in Kenya, I only encountered one person who was willing to pay for a Microsoft Windows Software license. Never mind that the person was not interested or willing to pay for Microsoft Office license, even after spending a huge amount of money on the license for Microsoft Windows.

This is the reason why they say that 78% of all software used in Kenya is pirated.

Why do Kenyans love pirated software as opposed to genuine software which guarantees more security and support?

Pirated software is cheap, easily accessible, and it is socially acceptable to use stolen software.

The cost of pirated software

When a campaign sponsored by Microsoft and Kenya Copyright Board was targeting users of pirated Microsoft Windows license in cyber cafรฉs, owners simply switched to Ubuntu and other open source software. It was easier to use Microsoft Windows, but the users opted to go the Linux way as it would cost virtually nothing.

Buying genuine copies of Microsoft Windows would have pushed many out of business.

Even for individual users, the cost factor is very appealing. The cost of license usually competes with the cost of hardware. Take for example the cost of Windows 10 Pro in Kenya, which ranges from $130 - $320, depending on the vendor. Compare this with the cost of the commonly used second hand laptops imported from Europe or the US. With just $200, one can get a decent core i5 laptop that will last for at least 6 years. The cost is less if you go for a laptop with less specification. With just $100, one can get a laptop.

Accessibility

It is extremely easy to find cracked software in Kenya.

For a little cost, one can find someone who is willing to do the installation for them. From Microsoft Windows, Internet Download Manager, Kaspersky Antivirus, Microsoft Office, Adobe Suite and even MatLab, people have found easy way of using them for free.

It is this ease of accessibility that offers an option to anyone who finds the cost prohibitive.

Social acceptance

While software piracy is a crime in Kenya, it is also socially acceptable.

No one seems to think it is a crime to use pirated software, as long as you are not caught. Even among some of the many enterprise clients, the fear of law enforcement is the primary motivation to use genuine software.

Different business model

As software progressively moves to the Cloud, some vendors need to rethink their business model for Kenya and the rest of the developing world. The developing world is not too small to ignore.

Microsoft has gone ahead to offer free licenses for some of their products to institutions such as schools. However, the bulk of users continue to use pirated copies of Windows and Office. I would want to imagine that Microsoft gathers anonymous usage data from these users and uses it for their R&D, otherwise there could a wasted opportunity compared to what Google gets by offering their Android OS for free.

Google offers its premium e-mail service for free to institutions like Universities, but there are very few users of its paid services. Fortunately, it is extremely difficult to โ€˜pirateโ€™ any SaaS platform, hence we wonโ€™t have a scenario where people hack and use G-Suite for free. At least, the free Gmail service already got part of the problem solved. Consequently, Google has got almost everybody legally on board.

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