The government open source dynamic
The news just broke that the Venezuelan government is planning to migrate to Open Source, having issued a decree to central government organizations to draft plans for migration.
The decree involves three phases of migration beginning with central government, then regional government and finally municipal government. Central ministries covered in the first phase are being asked to complete the migration within two years (unless they can demonstrate that the time frame cannot be met). The Venezuelan government has founded an Open Source academy in the city of Merida in an effort to provide a supply of capable staff.
This is yet another straw in the wind as regards global government commitments to and enthusiasm for Open Source. There is currently a remarkable amount of proposed legislation world wide that mandates the use of Open Source in government.
The countries where this is the case are: Argentina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Colombia, France, Italy and Peru. However, such legislation has previously been proposed and rejected in many countries simply because a blanket technology mandate is rarely practical.
More telling, in terms of a clear enthusiasm for Open Source are countries where a stated policy of a “preference” for Open Source has been declared. Countries where this is the case, in some areas of government IT use, include: Bahrain, Belgium, China and Hong Kong, Costa Rica, France, Germany, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Malaysia, Poland, Portugal, Philippines and South Africa.
Beyond this, almost all governments have R&D projects which are investigating the practicality of Open Source for government use which will, in all probability lead to local policy guidelines at some point which favour open source.
There are three significant motivations for government sponsorship of Open Source. First of all, government spend on technology is very high and thus the idea of an established viable Open Source alternative to proprietary software is appealing because it must lead to cost reductions, either because it provides a bargaining position (against proprietary vendors) or because it replaces more expensive proprietary software.
Secondly, for most governments, proprietary software is an import which does little to enrich the economy, while an Open Source initiative is likely to promote the development of a local software industry.
Finally, governments usually see Open Source as a means of promoting IT standards which have the potential to reduce technology costs in the medium to long term – not just in the government sector but in the local economy. This is particularly important in less developed countries where the cost of IT is simply too high for many local businesses.
These many government initiatives are likely to have a far ranging impact on software technology in general because they will eventually legitimize and promote Open Source in many areas, particularly on the PC. Government promotion of Open Source is now becoming an established world wide trend and it is unlikely to be reversed.
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