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Module 3.4 Creating a FOSS market and brand in Africa



Delivery method

For instructional purpose, it is advised that trainers/lectures use Lecture, Demonstrations, and Group Discussion. In addition presentations and exercises are also suitable method of delivery for this module.



The FOSS Branding message emphasizes the virtue of Free/Libre software tapping into the inherent national pride, local ownership and capacity development. This message seems to resonate with all customers who adhere to the idea of localism and national patriotism. However, in total juxtaposition is the lack of confidence of anything Free, which believes that FOSS is inferior and that local products do not measure up to the quality of first world software which are assumed to be better. A strange reverse discrimination against a Made in Africa solution goes beyond just software but it includes training and certification.

An effective branding campaign should be nation-wide multi-stakeholder effort of an aggressive strategy to educate the public on the merits of FOSS business which would in turn raise the acceptance and awareness rates amongst the general public which in turn raises the business opportunities for the FOSS business community

What is Brand?

Brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with a company or a product. For instance when you think Volvo, you might think safety. When you think Nike, you might think of Michael Jordan or "Just Do It." When you think IBM, you might think "Big Blue." The fact that you remember the brand name and have positive associations with that brand makes your product selection easier and enhances the value and satisfaction you get from the product. Brand associations are the attributes that customers think of when they hear or see the brand name. Ideally, you want customers to think of what they want from the brand (e.g., reliability and the benefits of reliability) and then associate that attribute with your brand name.

Open Source and Branding

Branding is an increasingly important issue in FOSS, both for individual contributors to FOSS projects and to the projects themselves. The term ‘branding’ to encapsulate the personal and the corporate:

  • Named individuals. If your software is popular, you will become well known and respected in the software community. You acquire this tech-fame because of attribution – your name is on and associated with the software.
  • Software brands. One thing that the most popular free/open source software often has in common with its proprietary cousins is a great brand name. This is true whether the FOSS is supported by an independent developer community or by a benevolent business

Protecting the Individual's Brand

Whilst businesses make a significant contribution to FOSS, individual programmers still contribute the majority of FOSS code. Whilst the reasons that those individuals contribute are diverse, one reason for doing so is the resulting recognition and respect from releasing a popular piece of software into the FOSS community and of course the likely hood of increased prospects of securing a business deal. For these reasons to be realistic, mechanisms have been devised to protect the ‘personal brand’. In FOSS, these mechanisms take the form of licences and the law such as GPL2 and GPL3, the most commonly used FOSS licences which contain provisions designed to help protect the copyright holder’s personal brand.

Protecting the software/corporate brand

In the FOSS world, the brand name of the software and the organisation/project behind it is just as important as it would be if the software was ‘proprietary’.

Trade marks are a potentially powerful way of protecting the brands given to free software. Trade marks are a registered right, meaning that you need to successfully register your brand as a trade mark in order to receive protection. They apply to the services and/or goods covered by the particular registration. A mark is infringed if it (or something similar) is used for services/goods identical to or similar to the services/goods covered by the mark.

FOSS trademark policies

Control of software brands might seem at odds with FOSS’ free and open nature, but trade mark schemes are common for the major FOSS project. There is even a scheme for the LINUX name. FOSS projects aim (at least in theory) to get as many programmers on board as possible, to get the software developed.

•This being the case, why would a project seek to control usage of the name of the software?

•Well same reasons for seeking protection and control apply as apply to brands in the ‘corporate’ world:

•Distinctiveness- As a project team, why spend a lot of (your own) time and effort successfully developing a piece of software, only to give it a generic name?

•Without a unique brand, how can potential users find the software?

Quality control- PR agencies and branding consultants tend to consider a brand in the widest sense – not just the name and logo, but also the values, message, and even ethos and philosophy of a brand (I’ll call these ‘the message’). If your brand doesn’t have a consistent and defined message, or has a confusing mix of messages, even the best trade mark in the world will be commercially weak.

With a business, control of the message is achieved through marketing and communications policies and the internal culture. With FOSS projects, brand control isn’t that simple. Such projects, by their nature, involve an international, broad church of people, and the licences give anyone the freedom to take the software, modify it, and even use it as the basis for entirely new software. In an attempt to avoid a situation where multiple people circulate multiple different varieties of a particular piece of software, all with the same name, the major projects have sought trade mark protection for their brands and have issued trade mark policies setting out how the brands may (or may not) be used.

CASE STUDY - Mozilla

The Mozilla Organization was launched by Netscape a decade ago to create the Mozilla internet suit, including a cut-down website browser. Over many years, this website browser developed into Firefox. Firefox is currently the world’s second most popular browser, just behind Internet Explorer.[7] Firefox is a big-name browser and is FOSS-licensed.[8]

 With a big name brand comes the need for brand protection, and this is something that the Mozilla Foundation (as the Organization is now known) has borne in mind since the browser was renamed from Firebird in 2004.[9] Other software supported by the Foundation, while not having the massive profile of Firefox, shows the same understanding of what makes a great brand; Thunderbird for email, Sunbird for calendar, and Seamonkey is now the name of that internet suite.

 The Mozilla Trademark Policy is a lengthy document, covering a range of scenarios and types of trade mark usage. It has an ‘overarching requirement’ that ‘your use of Mozilla's trademarks be non-confusing and non-disparaging’. Non-confusing is defined as ‘people should always know who they are dealing with, and where the software they are downloading came from. Websites and software that are not produced by the Mozilla Foundation shouldn't imply, either directly or by omission that they are’. Non-disparaging is defined as ‘outside the bounds of fair use, you can't use our trademarks as vehicles for defaming us or sullying our reputation’.

One such Policy which seeks to define levels of permitted Mozilla trade mark usage stipulate; with ‘significant functional changes’: the software may be described as ‘based on Mozilla technology’, or ‘incorporating Mozilla source code.’ Other than that, no permission is given to use Mozilla trade marks.

Hence, when Mozilla required the Debian Linus distribution to rename its adaptations of Firefox, Thunderbird and Seamonkey. Firefox was rebranded ‘Iceweasel’ (as Rolf Harris would say, can you see what they did there?). The other two were also given ‘Ice’ brands.

Cost effective branding for the small business

Many people think branding is really just for big companies – not for us at all. This is not true. While the ‘display’ of brand values, the breadth of your brand reach and how much your spend on brand identity may be very different if you are a small business – you can still learn and take ideas from the biggest and the ‘best’ brand advocates. The most important thing is not to limit your thoughts when it comes to deciding how you will develop and exploit the power of your brand.

The 5 P’s of Brand

  • Proposition For any business, getting the proposition right is important but for a small business it’s absolutely critical. As a Small Business you need to develop a clear and compelling message about yourself and use this consistently in all business communications. And this proposition must help you stand out from the crowd – maybe for the niche markets that you serve or the nature of the product or service that you deliver.
  • Presence and Presentation Presence and Presentation are the more familiar manifestations of the brand. This is all about how you convey, visually what your brand (for a small firm your business) is all about. Everything from your location and signage to company letterhead, brochure ware, website and even the type of paper you use for business correspondence can all help reinforce, or destroy the image of your brand. Location and signage – if your business has a fixed abode make sure the signs directing people to your offices are professionally produced and use the correct corporate font and colours, to be consistent with your logo and design of other business stationery.
  • People Do not, at all costs, underestimate the benefit (and damage) that your staff and fellow directors can bring to your business brand. This is why, in small businesses recruitment is such an important process. Make sure you bringing in the right people, especially those dealing directly with clients.
  • Perfection Perfection in business: Not sure – but certainly providing good customer service and having effective complaint handling processes is absolutely essential. If you have to deliver high levels of customer service, equip your staff with sufficient knowledge so that they can answer questions and solve problems themselves.
  • Persistence This is where a small business can really win but only if elements of your brand are used consistently. Use your logo as a branding device – to appear on vehicle livery, signage and even products where appropriate, as well as the obvious places – in adverts, on your company website, on business cards and so on. Any small business can use the 5Ps to plan and manage a cost effective branding strategy for their business – Follow this approach and you can benefit from the experience of much bigger brand names.

Potential FOSS Market

A separate FOSS market is a deliberate and targeted branding exercise in stark contract to the established IT Business market which implies existing commercial IT forms of Business.

Persuading Existing IT users

Definition: Persuasion in its simplest form means giving users the information they need to make an informed choice, helping them to trust you and allaying any concerns they have. It’s not about manipulation. Always remember, these persuasive tactics will only get you so far.

How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? None, the light bulb has to want to change. So the joke goes. However, it’s possible that the light bulb could be persuaded to change. Persuading people to buy online (from TVs to groceries, holidays to services) can be achieved with techniques that marketers and psychologists have known for years.Persuasion isn’t rocket science; it involves understanding aspects of human nature that are often automatic and work at a subconscious level. Here are 7 ethical ways to persuade people. Online persuasion - 7 ways to persuade

Creating Critical Mass


According to Wikipedia, Critical mass is a socio-dynamic term to describe the existence of sufficient momentum in a social system such that the momentum becomes self-sustaining and fuels further growth.

As a simple example, consider a big city. If a person stops and looks up at the sky, nothing will happen. People nearby will go on about their business. If three people stop and look up at the sky, perhaps some people will momentarily turn around, but then continue on their way. But only a small number of people is required— say, 5 to 7 (depending on such factors as the culture, time of day, width of the street, etc) — to cause others to stop and look up at the sky, too. This number is called the "critical mass" or tipping point.

Social factors influencing critical mass may involve the size, interrelatedness and level of communication in a society or one of its subcultures. Another is social stigma, or the possibility of public advocacy due to such a factor. Critical mass may be closer to majority consensus in political circles, where the most effective position is more often that held by the majority of people in society. In this sense, small changes in public consensus can bring about swift changes in political consensus, due to the majority-dependent effectiveness of certain ideas.

Many organizations particularly those working on new products and services wittingly or unwittingly attempted to create such social conditions by way of achieving a consumer base sufficient to grow and sustain demand. A typical example is a FOSS software development organization offering fee paying training in a FOSS school management system to teachers in public schools that are receiving free second hand computers. The idea behind this approach is that, a stage is reached when the number of schools with such a system provide them with sufficient teachers for their training services, but also big enough to influence the educational ministry to roll out the free computers to other schools resulting in demand sufficient enough to sustain the training and with growth coming alongside this steady rise in public schools receiving computers.

Module 3.4: ASSESSMENT

Assignment 1: Describe the status of the FOSS market in your country; stating (I) the advantages, and (ii) the obstacles for doing FOSS business in your country.

Assignment 2: Write slogans in English and in your local language for promoting 5 FOSS brands in your country.

Discussion: Using what you have learnt in Module 3.4.3, discuss a strategy on how you can create a brand for your product.

[1]http://kenya.smetoolkit.org/kenya/en/content/en/894/How-to-Network-Effectively [i]http://www.iosn.net/government/foss-government-primer [ii]http://www.policylink.org/Projects/eAdvocacy/documents/final_report.pdf = Assignments and Answers = TASK

Question 1. Do a quick investigation in your country of residence to determine the following;

a) Which government ministry or department leads in the use of Open Solutions

b) State the name of the most widely used open source software within government as a whole

c) The highest certified qualification offered by an training institutions in your country of


Some examples from participants

a) Government ministries are:

- MINISTRY OF EDUCATION- Makerere university, Uganda martyrs university, and Ndejje university. Also among technical institutions


- Uganda Chambers of commerce

- MNISTRY OF HEALTY- Mulago medical training

- MINISRTY OF ICT- POLICY AND IMPLIMENTATION DEPARTMENT.b) State the name of the most widely used open source software within government as a whole

-The most widely used are:

-Open source and Red hat Linux, MYSQL also for databases

c) The highest certified qualification offered by an training institutions in your country of



a) State Information Technology Agency (SITA) www.sita.co.za

b) Ubuntu Linux is widely used especially at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) where desktops were migrated to the desktop version of Ubuntu.

c) RedHat Certified Engineer (RHCE) and Ubuntu Certified Professional (UCP) are widely known as de facto certifications for server and desktop versions of their respective linux distributions.

a) Ministry of Science and Technology

b) The most widely used FOSS is Linux

c) Advanced Level Linux Professional (LPIC - 2)

a) Ministry of education: because FOSS will be much more applicable in schools and Universities. Some of the universities has already started using FOSS solutions like Fedora, ubuntu

b) No specific Open source software is in use right now widely. All offices use different solutions based on their specific need

c) If the question is about Open source certification, there is no institute that gives open source certification some have tried but failed. But there are vendor specific certifications CCNP, MSCEQuestion 2. Mention at least one best known active online community in your country whose objectives and activities are exclusively focused on the promotion and development of Business or ICTs in the country.

i) Its membership

ii) State its objectives and Activities

iii) Brief outline of its major achievements

Some examples from participants

The Business Place is a capacity building community assisting start up South African entrepreneurs launch their businesses. The Business Place combines powerful online presence with a network of walk-in centres for entrepreneurs furnished with relevant support and information services clustered under one roof. The website has a feature called Business on the Move which features success stories of entrepreneurs assisted by the community. The Business Place is also expanding and intends to spread its branches across the Southern African region.


The Business Place’s focus is strong on South African youth particularly the previously disadvantaged people of colour. However membership is not exclusive. Anyone who wants to start or grow a small business or micro enterprise can be served.

Objectives and Activities

The Business Place assist with the “know how” for anyone intending to start, improve or expand a business. The following are the primary objectives:

  • to make life easier for entrepreneurs and encourage entrepreneurship
  • stimulate local business, keep people in their communities and
  • assist local communities to reduce dependency on the government

Major Achievements

A study among 247 of entrepreneurs on the database in Johannesburg alone indicated the positive impact The Business Place has made since its establishment;

  • the Johannesburg Branch sees an average of 5 000 visitors a month
  • 79% felt that the Information Centre is friendly, accessible and helpful of the sample, 30 new businesses were started in the last year, and 103 existing businesses were assisted
  • These businesses generated 311 full-time jobs and 159 part-time jobs
  • Other branches report similar successes. The minimum estimated total turnover for businesses assisted is R17 784 000.

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