DESPITE regulations, software piracy has continued to grow in geometric progression across the globe, causing more economic harm than good.
Recently, a new study by the Business Software Alliance, BSA, the leading advocate for the global software industry has revealed that the commercial value of unlicensed software in Nigeria exceeded $287 million in 2013.
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This is an indication that eighty one percent of the software installed on personal computers, PCs, in Nigeria in 2013 were not properly licensed.
Similarly, in the Middle East and Africa, the commercial value of unlicensed software , according to the new study, was over $4.3 billion in 2013.
Globally, according to the study, unlicensed software use continues to be a major problem with 43 percent of the software installed on PCs around the world not properly licensed.
Emerging markets now account for 56 percent of all PCs in use globally and nearly three-quarters of all are unlicensed software installations (73 percent). That trend is likely to continue.
Among the other findings in BSA’s global software survey, is the commercial value of unlicensed PC software installations totaled $62.7 billion globally in 2013, a slight decrease from $63.5 billion in 2011.
The survey further reported that computer users cite the risk of security threats from malware as the top reason not to use unlicensed software. Among their specific concerns are intrusions by hackers and loss of data.
Yet in the enterprise, only 35 percent of companies have written policies in place requiring use of properly licensed software.
“The study clearly shows how much work still has to be done,” said Marius Haman, Corporate Attorney, Digital Crimes Unit at Microsoft, one of BSA’s member companies,” adding that , “Reducing unlicensed software use will help to stimulate Nigeria’s economy, enhance businesses productivity and better avoid security risks. Security is especially important in light of the growing threat of cybercrime.”
“Most people don’t know what is installed on their systems. That needs to change,” BSA President and CEO Victoria Espinel, said.
According to Espinel, “There are common-sense steps managers and administrators can take to make sure their organizations are using genuine, properly licensed software.”
Another concern for Nigerian businesses is accidental piracy. “As methods to manufacture and sell counterfeit software become more sophisticated, there is an urgent need for greater awareness of this critical problem.
“ Unsuspecting companies are at risk of downloading or purchasing counterfeit software that can expose them to spyware, malware and viruses that can lead to identity theft, loss of data, and system failures,” Haman said.
According to him, “Local law enforcement is taking action to tackle unscrupulous resellers and computer shops. An effective partnership between the public and private sector is crucial to reducing unlicensed software use in Nigeria.”
One of the alarming trends revealed in the study was the significant gap between workers’ and IT managers’ awareness of company software policies.
A full 42 percent of workers say their companies either do not have a policy on licensed software use or they don’t know, while 86 percent of IT managers claim that their companies have either a written policy or an informal one. It is no surprise then, that less than half of IT managers surveyed are very confident that their company’s software is properly licensed.
Among the risks associated with unlicensed software, 64 per cent of users cited unauthorised access by hackers as a top concern and 59 percent cited loss of data.
The Middle East and Africa has the third highest regional rate of unlicensed software tied with Latin America at 59 percent. Asia-Pacific has the highest rate in the world (62 percent) followed by Central and Eastern Europe (61 percent).
Although there is a gradual shift occurring in the delivery of software functionality to the cloud, it is not likely to lower the rate of unlicensed software installations anytime soon.
According to the survey, 52 percent of respondents said they shared log-in credentials, up from 42 percent in 2011.
The BSA Global Software Survey, conducted in partnership with IDC, estimates the volume and value of unlicensed software installed on personal computers in 2013 across more than 110 national and regional economies.
It also reveals key social attitudes and behaviors related to software licensing, intellectual property, and emerging technologies based on a global survey of more than 24,000 respondents.