Software piracy and counterfeiting remain rife in sub-Saharan Africa. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) Global Software Survey for 2016 reveals that countries such as Botswana, Kenya, Nigeria, Zambia and Zimbabwe have unlicensed software installation rates of 75% and above.
That means only one in four or fewer pieces of commercial software in use are fully compliant and licensed.
The commercial value of unlicensed software in use in Africa and the Middle East reached nearly $3.7 billion in 2015, according to the BSA. In some cases, software is unlicensed because end-users knowingly copy an application from a friend or colleague without paying for a licence or, download it from a ‘free’ site on the Internet.
In other cases, users are not aware their software is unlicensed until they need technical support or a software update. Unscrupulous resellers may copy the software and its manuals, and sell it as the original product, complete with convincing counterfeit packaging. Or a reseller might load the software onto a computer’s hard drive and sell the machine to the client without mentioning that the operating system or applications are not licensed.
Here are five reasons to avoid counterfeit and pirated software:
1. It’s illegal
In most parts of the world, software piracy is illegal and users who knowingly or unknowingly make use of unlicensed software can be subjected to fines and other penalties.
2. High risk of malware
Whether distributed on a counterfeit disc or on a peer-to-peer network for free download, pirated software is often riddled with spyware, viruses and other malware. Often, criminals distribute malware-infested software with the goal of using it to gain access to a victim’s computer, so that they can steal their data or identity.
3. No access to official technical support and updates
Purchasing a software licence also buys you access to support from the vendor or an official reseller. You can call or email someone for help if you run into a technical issue or simply need some assistance using the software. You will usually be able to get the latest feature updates and security patches, and you’ll have access to instructions and other official resources from the software vendor. That, in turn, allows you to get the most from your software.
4. Counterfeit software harms economic investment
Pirating software or purchasing it from an unofficial channel deprives the vendor of revenues that will encourage it to invest in the country. It also harms the bottom line of local tech businesses, like official resellers and distributors, and denies government tax revenues. In turn, this harms job creation in the IT industry, discourages investment in localising software for the market, reduces choice and competition, and takes money out of the economy that could fuel growth.
5. It costs more in the long run
Far from being the cheaper option, using counterfeit or pirated software can be the more expensive choice in the longer term. In addition to the legal and reputational risks, fixing serious problems caused by counterfeit software (such as malware or downtime) can be expensive and time-consuming. The lost productivity alone can be costlier to the business than the cost of legitimate software licence.
Justine Louw is the General Manager: Dell and Microsoft at Tarsus Distribution.