Enterprise open source software is saving jobs in an economy that is struggling to keep head above water.
According to Muggie van Staden, MD of Linux and open source company Obsidian Systems, many companies are turning to open source as a means to survive the pressures of a worldwide economic downturn.
"CIOs are being asked to greatly reduce operational spend, without increasing business risk," he says. "They are faced with the choice of either retrenching staff, or moving to more affordable hardware and software alternatives."
South Africa has been struggling with a skills shortage for years, making it imperative for companies to hold on to their staff. "Moving to enterprise open source is saving jobs and retaining essential skills, benefiting both employee and employer," says Van Staden.
The labour union Solidarity spoke to media close to the end of last year, stating that in the second half of 2008, unemployment stood at 23% – a number they predicted would increase by 25% in the first three months of 2009. Many unions are currently threatening strike action against the uncontrollable job cuts and the multiplicity of retrenchments.
Although mining and manufacturing are the hardest hit locally, all industries are being affected.
Speaking at a skills development conference in Johannesburg earlier this year, the National Skills Authority even called for "bold and decisive action" to deal with the job losses that have been experienced in most of South Africa's sectors.
What this comes down to is you can either get rid of staff or decrease operational costs to supplement salaries. And with proprietary products and license costs continuing to rise in an unstable financial climate, this should not even be seen as an option.
Many proprietary products are raising product and license fees in order to keep afloat in the economic downturn – some by as much as 40%. It is up to the CIO to decide whether they are willing to go along with these radical new pricing structures at the expense of key staff, or whether to use open source as a means to retain staff and cut costs in a financially difficult time.