Last modified on 27 September 2006, at 09:41

FOSS Government Policy/Conclusion

Free/Open Source Software is a proven and mature solution set that offers many opportunities to developing nations that are building their ICT infrastructure. Numerous corporations, institutions and government agencies are utilizing FOSS throughout their ICT infrastructure and running mission-critical applications upon it. Countless national governments are relying on FOSS to jumpstart their ICT infrastructure, develop local capacity, increase competition in the ICT industry and reduce their dependence on any single vendor.

However, FOSS is not a “magic bullet” that immediately solves all of a nation's problems. Its benefits are real and tangible; but implementing a policy that fully captures these benefits with no significant drawbacks is difficult. National leaders must be able to make balanced and well-informed decisions pertaining to FOSS policies. Tony Stanco from the Center of Open Source and Government highlights 50 several strong points in the South African Open Source Strategy: [1]

Official Statement of Recognition of the Legitimacy of FOSS
Since FOSS is new and unknown to most decision makers, official recognition and legitimacy has a strong promoting effect on FOSS adoption.
Designation of Particular Government Agency to Lead FOSS Programme
A designated lead agency is responsible for coordination, communication and execution of the policy. The single point of responsibility reduces the likelihood that a FOSS policy is not issued and forgotten or improperly implemented.
Level Playing Field in Government Procurement
By ensuring a truly level playing field be tween the different options, a government can increase competition in procurement. This involves, among other things, ensuring that open standards and open protocols are used.
Appreciation of Social Value of FOSS
Some policies focus too much on the financial benefits of FOSS and leave out benefits such as capacity building, transparency in government and greater citizen access. A policy that focuses on all the benefits addresses both the economic and social needs of a country.
Phased Implementation
Any large undertaking carries with it a large amount of risk, especially in developing countries where local capacity is highly limited. A phased implementation plan, including pilot projects and and a prudent transition strategy allows a government to build institutional knowledge and capacity while developing best practices and case studies for future projects.

No national policy is easy to formulate or implement. The unique conditions in each country, the demands of the different stakeholders and the challenges faced present a different problem to each country. Still, the benefits to be gained are enormous and policy-makers need to be well informed to make optimal choices so that each nation can fully realize the benefits that FOSS can bring to each.

FootnotesEdit

  1. Stanco, T., “EGOVOS Endorses South Africa's Open Source Strategy”, Newsforge.com, 18 June 2003; available from http://www.newsforge.com/business/03/06/17/1655215.shtml?tid=19