By Macharia Kamau
Software piracy remained high in the country last year, dropping only 1 per cent from 80 per cent in 2008.
According to research by the Business Software Alliance (BSA), a global industry lobby group, software developers in the country lost in excess of Sh5 billion piracy.
The country’s high rate of software piracy compares unfavorably with the global average of 43 per cent.
Software piracy has been attributed to low consumer awareness and high cost of acquiring new software, especially among individuals.
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Weak regulatory framework has in the past been blamed but the recent implementation of the anti-counterfeit act is expected to help fight the vice.
The study, which was done in conjunction with International Data Corporation (IDC), notes that use of pirated software in East and Southern Africa remains among the highest worldwide.
Computer software piracy rates in Botswana, Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe averaged 83 per cent last year.
The total commercial value of unlicensed software in the four eastern and southern African countries reached Sh6.4 billion last year while the value of stolen software in Kenya alone accounted for Sh5 billion.
Andrew Waititu, Licence Compliance Manager for Microsoft East & Southern Africa is, however, optimistic that sector-led initiatives are recording some success in fighting piracy.
Edward Sigei, enforcement and legal officer, says the Kenya Copyright Board should continue working with software manufacturers and other industry players to protect their intellectual property and secure revenue for taxpaying businesses and Government.
At 92 per cent, Zimbabwe had the highest piracy rates in Africa. The southern Africa country ranked second after Georgia on the global listing.
"Due to growth of PC markets in emerging economies, we are seeing the worldwide piracy rate rise from 41 per cent in 2008 to 43 per cent last year," said Dale Waterman, BSA Co-Chair, Middle East and Africa.
"This rise of unlicensed software in East and Southern Africa’s markets limits local innovation, job creation and sabotages the economy."
The study reported that if Kenya reduced its piracy rate by just 10 per cent over four years, it would create an additional 977 local IT jobs and contribute $73.60 million to Kenya’s GDP.
"We need to do more to protect local businesses forced to cut jobs due to unfair competition from software pirates and preserve the hard work and intellectual property local software developers put in to technology," said Waititu.