|From: "Inker, Evan"
|Subject: [NYLXS - HANGOUT] Open source: Developing markets and anti-Americanism (Part 2)
|Open source: Developing markets and anti-Americanism
November 14, 2005, 12:00 GMT
Rishab Ghosh, programme leader of an open source research project at the
Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (MERIT)
in Holland conducted a study recently comparing licence fees with a
country's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
The results, even after software price discounts, showed that the cost of
proprietary software for developing markets is "enormous" in terms of
relative purchasing power. Buying Windows XP and Office XP on Amazon.com in
the US is equal to almost 3 months of GDP per capita in South Africa and
over 16 months of GDP per capita in Vietnam. This is equivalent to charging
a single-user licence fee in the US of $7,541 and $48,011 respectively.
Even if software is discounted to account for local pricing, it is usually
still extremely expensive and there is no guarantee that this discount will
be sustained in the long term, says Ghosh.
Much of the costs associated with open source deployments in mature markets
are due to the cost of replacing a system, updating related applications and
retraining staff, while in emerging markets technology projects are more
likely to be new installations, which means that licence fee savings for
open source software make more of a difference, since updates and retraining
are not an issue.
Open source software also offers an advantage to countries through its
potential to develop the local industry. This is particularly important in
developing markets which often don't have a local software industry.
"Local companies are limited in the integration and support services they
can provide for proprietary software. Deep support - fixing software bugs,
customising it to user requirements, or integrating extensively with other
software - requires deep access," Ghosh said recently at a free software
conference in Brazil.
The availability of software in a local language can also be a factor in the
deployment and support of open source software by governments. For example,
the South African government has funded a project to translate
OpenOffice.org into the 11 official languages of South Africa. This project
is nearly completed, while Microsoft Office 2003 supports only one of the
official South African languages - English - according to the Microsoft Web
"From an emerging markets perspective, open source is very effective at
localisation, while Microsoft looks at how big the market is and how
strategic it is before it makes a decision," says Redmonk analyst James
China: Local software for local people
India: Speaking your language
Brazil: The spirit of community
China: Local software for local people
The Chinese government plans to deploy over 140,000 Linux PCs in primary and
secondary schools across the Jiangsu province. The deal was announced by Sun
Wah Linux in October 2005 and is thought to be the largest Linux desktop
roll-out in Asia.
Until China joined the World Trade Organisation in 2001, pirated copies of
Microsoft software were in common use, including in government agencies. Now
it's part of the WTO, China must replace unlicensed copies of Microsoft
software, and it is likely to replace at least some of these Windows
installations these with Linux.
Chinese local and national governments have deployed open source software,
and those migrations involving Linux have been given the most publicity.
National government agencies using Linux include the National Ministry of
Science, the Ministry of Statistics, and the National Labour Unit. Local
governments using Linux include the municipal government of the Chinese
capital Beijing, which is deploying 2,000 Linux desktops. Aside from Linux,
other open source products are supported by the Chinese government,
including NeoShine, a Chinese variant of OpenOffice.org, which is on the
Chinese government's preferred list for government office productivity
The Chinese government has mandated the use of China-produced software in
government departments, which has worked as a "strong driver" for open
source, according to Andrea DiMaio, research director with analyst firm
Gartner. However, this law does not prevent the use of Chinese proprietary
software and does not appear to be strictly enforced - Beijing has
reportedly bought a "substantial quantity"of Microsoft software .
The Chinese government has spoken of its support for open source on numerous
...and has funded a number of open source initiatives and research projects.
Last year, the Chinese Ministry of Information founded the Open Source
Software Promotion Alliance to encourage the development of China's open
source software industry. The government is also working with a number of
other countries on open source projects, for example, it is working with the
South Korean and Japanese governments to develop open source alternatives to
Microsoft Windows, and is working with the French Atomic Energy Commission
to develop a Linux-based platform for online services and communication
The Chinese government's enthusiasm for open source software is partly to
lower cost, and partly to benefit the local industry, says DiMaio of
Gartner. But, there are also cultural and political reasons for its pro-open
source policy, according to analyst Governor.
"There is a lot of distrust of American imperialism in China," says
Governor. "As Linux is not owned by an American company it appeals to them.
China also has communitarian instincts, which open source plays into"
There is also concern among some members of the Chinese government that
Microsoft software contains secretly embedded code that the US government
could manipulate, which would allow the US to bring down China's computing
Madanmohan Rao, a research director at the Asian Media Information and
Communication Centre (AMIC) agrees that anti-Americanism is a factor in
China's promotion of open source. "The Chinese government is a bit paranoid
about having proprietary code - it is worried about a back door into its
systems," he says.
India: Speaking your language
The Indian government is funding an initiative to distribute millions of
free CDs containing open source software. Around 3.5 million CDs
Tamil-language versions of open source applications and 3.5 million
Hindi-language CDs containing have already been distributed. And there are
further plans to distribute software translated into all 22 official
languages of India.
Open source software has been deployed by both the national and state
governments in India, although many of the large scale deployments have
happened in states. However, researcher Rao says there is still a "lot of
Microsoft" in use by the Indian government.
The government of Maharashtra, India's third largest state, has deployed
OpenOffice.org on "thousands of desktops" and is using Linux in its treasury
management and land record management departments, according to a recent
article in The Times of India.
The state of Kerala is using open source software for "many" of its
e-Government initiatives, Ajay Kumar, the secretary to the Keralan
government said in a conference speech. A number of schools across the state
are using open source software on PCs, including over 40 schools in the
Mandriva's chief executive, Bancilhon says it is in talks with an Indian
government agency at the moment and expects to deploy Linux on between
10,000 to 100,000 machines.
The Indian national government and the majority of state authorities have a
neutral policy around open source. Kerala is thought to be one of the few
states to have a policy that formally promotes open source. "The Government
wishes to encourage the judicious use of open source/free software that
compliments/supplements proprietary software, to reduce the total cost of
ownership of IT applications/solutions without compromising on the immediate
and medium term value provided by the application," the Kerala government
states in its IT policy document.
The Indian government has funded a number of initiatives to promote and
research the use of open source, including the foundation of the Open Source
Software Resource Center, which aims to...
...develop open source software and training programs around such software,
and the creation of a Web site to share the government's experiences with
open source software.
The President of India, APJ Abdul Kalam, has advocated the use of open
source software on a number of occasions. Last year, he called for the
Indian military to use open source software to ward off cybersecurity
threats and the year before he said it was 'unfortunate' that proprietary
software, such as Windows, was so popular in India and called for the
broader adoption of open source.
The Indian government's relatively neutral policy towards open source is
driven by a desire to keep US companies happy, says Gartner's DiMaio. "The
Indian government doesn't want to annoy its clients in US," he says. The
technology outsourcing industry is of vital importance to the Indian
economy, with the top 20 Indian IT services companies generating a combined
$5.77bn from exports in 2003 to 2004.
Rao from AMIC claims the Indian government's attitude to open source has
been influenced by "very strong" lobbying from Microsoft. The software giant
has also been striking a number of partnerships with Indian outsourcing
companies, including Infosys, with which it has jointly invested $8m to
develop a portfolio of services.
Bancilhon from Mandriva disagrees that the Indian government is neutral
towards open source. "The Indian government has a strong will to promote
open source due to the potential to save costs and gain independence. India
has a strong software expertise and wants to have the ability to control its
own technology by being a partner rather than a customer," says Bancilhon.
Rao says the Indian public sector is more able to adopt open source than
other countries in emerging markets due to its supply of skilled technology
"There is a very good pool of IT talent in India. Other countries who have
tried open source don't have the talent pool or skill sets, while in India
there are a lot of good IT folks," says Rao.
Brazil: The spirit of community
The Brazilian government may distribute one million laptops running open
source software to local schools. In January, the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology launched a project to build low-cost Linux-based laptops for the
developing world. The Brazilian government is considering building 2 million
of these laptops, half of which will be distributed to local schools, and is
investigating the finances of the scheme.
Open source software has been deployed by the federal, state and city
governments in Brazil, although the states and cities have been more
progressive, according to Ronaldo Lemos, the director of the Centre for
Technology & Society at the Fundação Getulio Vargas law school in Brazil,
which recently advised Brazilian government on the its open source strategy.
"Before the Federal government embraced free software, there had been
initiatives at the city and state levels that helped to pave the way for a
broader program," says Lemos.
There have been a number of large scale migrations in Brazilian states, for
example, the state of Parana is migrating 10,000 government employees from
proprietary software to a customised version of the open source
collaboration application eGroupWare and São Paulo has deployed Linux on
16,000 PCs and 1,000 servers in schools across the state, according to
Mandriva. Some federal government agencies have also migrated to open source
software, with seven of the 22 federal ministries reportedly using open
source. This includes a number of open source desktop deployments, for
example, OpenOffice.org is run on 4000 seats in the federal government,
according to Erwin Tenhumberg, a product marketing manager at Sun.
The Brazilian federal government has drafted a bill that would mandate the
use of open source software by public departments. This decree would force
government departments to migrate to open source software unless they can
justify the continued use of proprietary software.
A few Brazilian states and municipalities have already passed laws that
require public administrations to give preference to open source software,
including the states of Espirito Santo and Parana, and the cities of Amparo,
Solonopole, Ribeirão Pires and Recife.
But Jaques Rosenzvaig, who was the chief executive of Brazilian Linux vendor
Conectiva said in April that these laws have not affected the use of open
source in these states as they are not strictly enforced. Bancilhon from
Mandriva, which was formed from the merger of Conectiva and Mandrakesoft,
agrees that in Brazil there is "more talk than action". "There is still a
gap between what politicians want to do and what administrations are willing
to implement," he says.
As well as legislative policies, the Brazilian government has also funded
projects to research and promote the use of open source, such as CDTC, a
technology centre that provides training and support around open source
The Brazilian government claims that the main reason for its adoption of
open source software is to cut costs. "The number one reason for this change
is economic," Sergio Amadeu da Silveira, the head of Brazil's National
Information Technology Institute said to the BBC in an interview. "If you
switch to open source software, you pay less in royalties to foreign
Lemos, who advised the Brazilian government its free software strategy,
agrees that saving money is a "very important" reason for the government.
Other reasons for the government's support of open source include the
educational benefits from being able to access the source code, says Lemos.
For example, this was seen when the São Paulo government set up community
centres, known as telecentros, where people could access free software.
"The interesting thing that happened at the telecentros [in São Paulo] is
that people not only started to use computers to browse the Internet, but
also a significant number of people started to learn programming, by
tinkering with the source code of the programs," says Lemos. "Free software
creates a community of skilled programmers, that later become an important
asset for the country's technological development as a whole. So the
'educational' benefits are also an important factor leading the [Brazilian]
government to adopt [free and open source] software."
The adoption of free software by the public sector has also been driven by a
large and active free software community in Brazil, according to Lemos.
Redmonk's Governor says that the Brazilian government's enthusiasm for open
source is partly due to a "strong distrust of American corporations" and
partly for cultural reasons. "Brazilians are very community-minded and open
source fits into that," he says.
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