To ensure growth of a nation's digital economy, government information technology policy must foster innovation and openness. But good technology is not enough. Government policy must also promote an economic framework that enables good business practices.
National Linux distributions have special responsibilities. They should encourage a nation's open source activities as broadly as possible rather than present an isolated solution based on inevitably limited resources.
OSS can break the cycle of red-tape and budget limitations hindering the effectiveness of government information services.
Governments should utilize Information Technology (IT) procurement policy to help achieve transparency, competition, measurement and efficiency in the purchasing process. A policy which incorporates open source as a choice for solutions complements the role of standards. Open source and open standards together can help strengthen a framework for procuring and delivering solutions to meet the needs of government.
While the UK’s Office of Government Commerce (OGC) points to the savings possible using OSS and warns against high lifecycle costs of proprietary software, its cousin organization, the National Health Service (NHS), indulges in an expensive renewal of proprietary software licenses.
Malaysia jumps to the forefront of the world’s growing official support for the Penguin by making OSS a procurement preference for government purchases.
By implementing fair ICT procurement practices informed by a government policy that promotes the larger economic welfare and social benefits, we can begin to rephrase “may the best product win” into “may the most beneficial product win”.
Government is the largest user of software in a society. But just as importantly, it also must promote, build and protect a country’s indigenous software industry.
Linux and open source software (OSS) are widely used for internal as well as high-visibility external projects at both NASA and ESA. While the future is bright for open technologies at both space agencies, procurement rules and licensing considerations may need to be changed to better support the advantages of Linux and OSS.
India is not alone in its efforts to determine the role government should play in balancing the advantages and disadvantages of open source vs proprietary software. But, because of a traditional lack of infrastructure and the availability of “discounted” proprietary packages, India faces some unique challenges in building up the strength of its local software industry.