Kerala's conversion comes at a time when free and open source software (foss) acceptance is upscaling. Consider, first, other states. As early as 2002, Madhya Pradesh introduced foss in its e-governance (Gyandoot) and computer-enabled school education (Headstart) initiatives.
In 2007, Tamil Nadu introduced it in its e-governance projects with C Umashankar, managing director of Electronic Corporation of Tamil Nadu, almost single-handedly pushing for it. In the same year, Karnataka introduced it in its e-procurement projects.
In 2004, the local government in the city of Rome migrated to foss use in their desktops. In 2005, the courts in New South Wales started using it. In 2006, Venezuela passed a law mandating that, by 2008, all government infrastructure would migrate to foss. In 2007 Brazil declared a similar shift. In March this year, the European Union declared preference for foss for its new it projects. Around the same time, foss advocates lodged a complaint with the European parliament about its information technology systems relying exclusively on software manufactured by Microsoft.
In the us state of Mississippi, three counties and 30 agencies use an open source based management system to administer all law enforcement and homeland security forces. Birmingham City Council, uk, too, has shifted 1,500 computers and associated server infrastructure to Linux and other open-source software.
In China, according to their ministry of information industry, almost 70 per cent of all software purchases between 2004 and 2005 were of Linux-based products. The South Korean postal service, too, has shifted around 4,700 desktop computers from Microsoft Windows to Linux.
Security is a major reason for this shift (see box Why?). Another major reason is cost. In 2004, the California Department of Transportation initiated a project on identity and password management. The rollout required hardware and software worth about us $500,000. They decided to run the software application on an open source operating system. The cost was reduced to us $220,000. The experience of K P Abhilash, computer operator of the Khadi and Village Industries Board, Kerala, is similar. "We have saved Rs 10 lakh in the first phase of our shift to foss and hope to save Rs 20 lakh in the next one. We have also installed our home computers with foss. It is much more convenient. We have not faced any problems since we installed it." (see table open profit)
|Using FOSS has led to huge cost savings|
|IDBI||Introduced FOSS in 900 computers||Rs 1 crore (a)
|LIC||Replaced computers with thin clients running Linux and Mozilla
||Rs 10 crore (a)
|Franchise Tax Board (US)||Database of clients||US $330,000 (b)
|Kerala, Department of Education||School computers in FOSS||Rs 41 crore (c)
|Sources Compiled from various sources (a)- Express Computer, August 25, 2003 (b)-‘Why open source software/free software, look at numbers’, a report by David A Wheeler, 2007 (c)-Report of the Education Department, Government of Kerala, 2008|
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