FOSS A General Introduction/FOSS Success Stories

What are governments doing with FOSS?Edit

Various governments around the world have begun to take notice of FOSS and launch initiatives to reap the benefits it poses. Many of these initiatives are still in the early stages, but there is a significant trend towards incorporating FOSS into procurement and development policies. Besides the large numbers of reports and white papers recommending FOSS solutions, there are reportedly about 70 proposed laws mandating or encouraging FOSS around the world [1]. A few are at the national level while most are at much lower (state or city) levels. The following are highlights of some of the more noteworthy efforts from around the world.

EuropeEdit

Besides being home to a significant number of FOSS developers, Europe is also an area with strong government interests in FOSS. In particular, the European Union, Germany, France and the United Kingdom are leading the way in FOSS development.

European UnionEdit

The European Union has produced a working paper that stresses Open Standards and encourages Free/Open Source Software where appropriate. The paper, titled “Linking Up Europe: the Importance of Interoperability for E-government Services”, focuses on connecting the different national e-government systems together. It is also critical of past developments that “resulted in closed, vertical, un-scalable and frequently proprietary information systems" [2]. This paper was produced as part of the eEurope initiative. The European Union is also creating FOSS competency centers and funding the development of certain health-related applications [3].

GermanyEdit

Germany has many different initiatives underway. The German Bundestag uses Linux on its 150 servers [4], while the city of Munich plans to switch over 14,000 desktops to Linux, despite Microsoft’s last minute price cuts [5]. The police force is also transitioning 11,000 clients to Linux. It is interesting to note that price is not always the factor cited for the large number of migrations to Linux. Germany’s Interior Minister, Otto Schilly, said, “We are raising computer security by avoiding a monoculture, and we are lowering dependence on a single supplier” [6]. The German Parliament decided in 2001 that FOSS products should be used wherever costs could be decreased by their usage [7]. The Ministry of Finance has an Apache/Linux-based intranet system that supports 15,000 users [8].

FranceEdit

The officially sanctioned Agency for Technologies of Information and Communication in Administration (ATICA) counts as part of its mission, “to encourage administrations to use free software and open standards.”[9] The Authority for Customs and Indirect Taxation has also migrated to Linux, citing security reasons[10]. The French agency for e-government has made open standards mandatory for all public administrations to guarantee full interoperability[11].

United KingdomEdit

The United Kingdom (UK) has only recently started formulating policy regarding FOSS procurement but the policies that have been produced to date have been favorable towards FOSS. The UK is primarily interested in avoiding the proprietary lock-in problem and has produced a policy to “only use products for interoperability that support open standards and specifications in all future IT developments” [12]. One of the most active proponents of FOSS is the National Health Service, in part due to the insolvency of a proprietary software vendor that forced hospitals to migrate to Linux [13].

FinlandEdit

It is only fitting that the homeland of Linux’s creator is also active in the FOSS arena. One of the more public initiatives is the gradual migration of the city of Turku to Linux and Open Office. All desktop systems will be migrated, with the first pilot project of 200 computers in progress.

The Finnish State Administration is also reportedly considering replacing all of its desktops with Linux, affecting as many as 147,000 computers [14].

AmericasEdit

United StatesEdit

Although there is no official FOSS policy in the US federal government, there have been a number of attempts to pass pro-FOSS legislation at the state level. The states include California [15], Texas[16] and Oregon [17]. To date none of the bills have been passed but the momentum is not expected to slow down anytime soon.

Finding detailed information about FOSS usage in the US government is difficult, but a survey from MITRE Corporation shows that the US Department of Defense used a total of 115 different FOSS applications, with 251 examples of their use[18]. Additionally, multiple reports recommending the use of FOSS in the US Federal government have appeared, including one by the (US) President’s Information Technology Advisory Committee (PITAC) which recommended that the US “Federal government should encourage the development of open source software as an alternate path for software development for high end computing”[19].

A few smaller public institutions have shifted over to FOSS platforms. The most well known is the City of Largo, Florida. They have transitioned 900 city employees over to GNU/Linux, saving over $1 million in both hardware and software costs[20]. The City of Largo did more than just use Linux as an operating system; they changed their entire computing model to a thin-client system (something which Microsoft Windows currently cannot do) and as a result saved a huge amount in hardware costs. The city of Houston, Texas has also shifted systems over to a FOSS platform after Microsoft demanded that the city change to a $12 million dollar, multi-year licensing plan [21].

PeruEdit

Peru is well known within the FOSS community for being one of the first countries in the world to have introduced legislation favoring FOSS in government procurement. The ensuing publicity, Microsoft’s response and Dr. Edgar David Villanueva Nuñez’s (legislation sponsor) powerful reply would occupy IT news media for quite a while. Among the choice quotes from Dr. Nunez’s response are:

To guarantee the free access of citizens to public information, it is indespensable (sic) that the encoding of data is not tied to a single provider. The use of standard and open formats gives a guarantee of this free access, if necessary through the creation of compatible free software.

To guarantee the permanence of public data, it is necessary that the usability and maintenance of the software does not depend on the goodwill of the suppliers, or on the monopoly conditions imposed by them. For this reason the State needs systems the development of which can be guaranteed due to the availability of the source code.[22]

Although the bill remains stalled (after a US$550,000 donation by Microsoft and pressure from the US Embassy), the reasoning behind the Peruvian bill is something all governments concerned with public data should consider.

BrazilEdit

The Brazilian government plans to migrate 80 percent of all computers in state and state-owned institutions to Linux over the next three years. Pilot programs are already underway and a slow, gradual migration is planned. A “Chamber for the Implementation of Software Libre” has been set up by the government to smooth this transition. Among the reasons cited for this move are lower costs, increased production of local software and “democratiz(ing) access to knowledge” [23]

Asia PacificEdit

RegionalEdit

The Asia-Pacific region, with its mix of developed and developing nations, is a very active region in FOSS usage and development. Three of the major nations in the area—Japan, South Korea and China—have recently announced an initiative to create a FOSS operating system adapted to their regional needs [24].

ChinaEdit

China is set to be a major stronghold for FOSS over the next few years. FOSS usage in the country is growing rapidly, with Linux growth alone expected to be 175 percent in 2003[25].

A primary driver of this massive growth is the Chinese government itself. One of its goals is to create both a hardware and software industry that “will not fall into the foreign intellectual property rights trap”[26]. Rather than becoming dependent on foreign hardware and software vendors, China is trying to develop its local technology industry, and FOSS fits well into its software needs. Recently, the Chinese government announced that government departments would be barred from purchasing foreign produced software, effectively eliminating most proprietary software vendors such as Microsoft and Oracle [27].

Beyond sponsoring the creation of localized versions of GNU/Linux (Red Flag Linux, Blue Point Linux, etc.), China is also implementing FOSS solutions at the government level. The city of Beijing has had a project to convert 2,000 desktops to Red Flag Linux since 2001[28]. China Post Office signed a deal with IBM to run GNU/Linux at 1,200 branch offices[29]. While these projects cover only a small fraction of the Chinese government, they also serve as capacity-building projects for future transitions.

The Yangfan and Qihang projects launched in January 2002 are part of the Beijing Municipal Government’s computerization project. The goal of these projects is to produce a localized GNU/Linux with functionality, consistency and ease of use matching that of Microsoft Windows 98. Over 150 engineers have completed their initial target of a basic operating system, office suite, web browser and email client. The latest iteration of the project includes font development and experimental transition of government applications to GNU/Linux [30].

China is also one of three countries (the other two are Japan and South Korea) that are forming a joint FOSS project that would cover the entire spectrum of software, from operating systems to middle ware and desktop applications [31].

IndiaEdit

While the Indian federal government currently has no official position on the FOSS/proprietary software issue [32], India represents a hotbed of FOSS development. There are many department level initiatives:

  1. The Central Excise Department has moved 1,000 desktops to Linux.
  2. The government supercomputer arm, the C-DAC, has moved over entirely to GNU/Linux [33].
  3. The Supreme Court has several pilot projects under way.

At the state level, there have been several FOSS initiatives. The most prominent is the Madhya Pradesh state government’s plan to use Linux in its e-governance and Headstart programs, according to Chief Minister Digvijay Singh [34]. Red Hat has installed its version of Linux on over 6,000 desktops in schools [35], with more likely to come. The state of Kerala has also several initiatives underway, including e-government and educational initiatives.

Other state level initiatives have been announced, but little has been heard about these initiatives since Microsoft’s much-publicized investment in 2002 [36].

TaiwanEdit

In 2003, Taiwan launched its “National Open Source Plan”, a two-year plan to build a software industry that could replace all of the proprietary software on government and educational systems. The primary drivers for this plan are the existing dependence on a monopoly supplier and the expected cost savings. The National Computer Center is drafting the basic plan while the national education system will be switched to FOSS “to provide a diverse IT education environment and ensure the people's rights to the freedom of information.” [37] Expected savings from the plan are about NT$2 billion for the government and NT$10 billion for the society as a whole.

ThailandEdit

An article in the Bangkok Post on 23rd June 2003 reported that the Thailand ICT Ministry had set a target of five percent Linux installations on government systems by the end of 2003. A 10 million baht budget has been allocated. The ultimate goal is to have 50 percent of all government systems on Linux. No time frame has been set for the more ambitious target but pilot projects are already underway.

Thailand's low-cost PC program is also credited with forcing Microsoft to offer both the Windows XP operating system and Microsoft Office for a mere US$40, the lowest price available in the world at present (3rd quarter 2003)[38].

MalaysiaEdit

The government has expressed support for FOSS solutions since November 2001. In April 2002, the Association of Computer and Multimedia Industry of Malaysia (PIKOM) produced a paper suggesting that Malaysia “officially embrace OSS” in April 2002 [39]. Initial deployment will start on servers and then gradually shift to desktops to minimize disruptions in operations.

Malaysia also launched in July 2002 Komnas, a low-cost computer based on FOSS [40]. Komnas carries a localized version of Linux, including office suite, web browser and various utilities.

JapanEdit

Japan is considering moving its e-government projects over to FOSS platforms due to security problems in Microsoft Windows software [41]. Authorities are reportedly putting together a panel of experts to study FOSS deployment. In the meantime, the Japanese government is moving its entire payroll system over to a GNU/Linux platform. The switch is expected to cut operating costs by half, especially maintenance costs from hardware[42].

Other RegionsEdit

AfricaEdit

The South African government has a policy preferring FOSS systems unless there are compelling reasons otherwise [43]. Among the reasons cited for this preference is that with the traditional proprietary software model, South Africa ends up primarily being an importer of software, with little influence over how software is developed. It is hoped that using FOSS systems will change this.

Tanzania is also implementing FOSS systems in its government for cost reasons, while Uganda, Ghana and Zambia are also reportedly moving towards FOSS [44].

What are some successful FOSS projects?Edit

While FOSS may seem a relatively new concept, it has actually been around since long before the Internet came into existence. FOSS has more than proven that it is ready for prime time, mission-critical usage. In some cases, it is the critical linchpin that makes the Internet possible. The following is a small sample of successful FOSS projects.

BIND (DNS Server)Edit

Internet addresses such as yahoo.com or microsoft.com would not function if not for Domain Name Servers (DNS). These servers take these human-friendly names and convert them into the computer-friendly numeric addresses and vice-versa. Without these servers, users would have to memorize numbers such as 202.187.94.12 in order to use a website.

The Berkeley Internet Name Domain (BIND) server runs 95 percent of all DNS servers[45], including most of the DNS root servers. These servers hold the master record of all domain names on the Internet. BIND is a FOSS program licensed under a BSD-style license by the Internet Software Consortium.

Apache (Web Server)Edit

Responsible for receiving and fulfilling requests from web browsers, the Apache web server is one of the foundations of the World Wide Web (WWW) as we know it today. Apache has been the number one web server since April 1996 and currently commands 62.53 percent of the total web server market [46]. That is more than double the market share (27.17 percent) of its closest competitor, Microsoft’s IIS server.

These figures fluctuate monthly of course. The latest figures can be found at Netcraft’s Web Server Survey site, at: http://news.netcraft.com/archives/web_server_survey.html .

Sendmail (Email Server)Edit

The Internet as we know it would not exist without email and once again, FOSS is one of the primary drivers. An email server’s (sometimes called a Mail Transport Agent or MTA) function is to deliver user email to its destination. Complex functionality, such as email forwarding and redirection, junk email rejection and routing, makes email servers rather complex systems. The problem of junk email (sometimes referred to as spam) makes security a critical feature, as spammers sending their unsolicited email to unsuspecting users would otherwise hijack an email server and render it useless to legitimate users.

A 2001 survey by D.J. Bernstein found that Unix Sendmail had the largest market share, at 42 percent of all email servers. This was larger than the share of its next two competitors combined, Microsoft Exchange and Unix qmail, with 18 percent and 17 percent, respectively [47]. Note that qmail is a Unix-based email server but is not FOSS as its licensing terms are too restrictive.

OpenSSH (Secure Network Administration Tool)Edit

Because Internet traffic can pass through multiple networks when a user connects into a remote server, security is a major concern. The Secure Shell (SSH) protocol allows system administrators to control their servers from a distance, safe in the knowledge that it is almost impossible to intercept and decipher the information that they may be transmitting.

OpenSSH, a FOSS implementation of the SSH protocol, has grown from a mere five percent of the market in 2000 to 66.8 percent of the market in April 2002. OpenSSH came into existence as a result of a restrictive licensing change in the standard SSH implementation at that time.

OpenOffice (Office Productivity Suite)Edit

While FOSS products have been strong on the server side, FOSS desktop applications are relatively new. Open Office, which is based on the source code of the formerly proprietary StarOffice, is a FOSS equivalent of Microsoft Office, with most of its features. It includes a full-featured word processor, spreadsheet and presentation software. One of the advantages for many considering the shift from a Windows desktop environment to Open Office is that it reads most Microsoft Office documents without problems. This makes the transition relatively painless and Open Office has been used in recent high profile switches from Windows to Linux. While it does not have a very large market share as yet, its usage is expected to grow dramatically over time as more organizations use this full-featured, low-cost application.

FootnotesEdit

  1. Miller, Robin, “Open Source: A Case For E-Government”, 21 October 2002, Newsforge [home page online]; available from http://newsforge.com/newsforge/02/10/20/1746231.shtml?tid=4 ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  2. Williams, Peter, “Europe picks Penguin to link government IT”, 18 July 2003, VNUNet.com [home page online]; available from http://web.archive.org/web/20030724183521/http://www.vnunet.com/News/1142411 ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  3. Kable Report on Open Source Software – Sponsored by Sun Microsystems”, 17 March 2003, Kable Ltd,
  4. Najani, Niranjan, “Free as in Education”; available from http://www.maailma.kaapeli.fi/FLOSSReport1.0.html ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  5. “LinuxPR: Munich Goes with Open Source Software”, 28 May 2003, linuxtoday.com [home page online]; available from http://linuxtoday.com/infrastructure/2003052802126NWDTPB ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  6. “IBM signs Linux deal with Germany”, 3 June 2002, BBC News; available from http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/2023127.stm ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  7. Ghosh, Krieger, Glott, Robles, “Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study. Part 2B: Open Source Software in the Public Sector: Policy within the European Union”, June 2002;available from http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/FLOSSFinal_2b.pdf ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  8. Kable Report on Open Source Software – Sponsored by Sun Microsystems”, 17 March 2003, Kable Ltd
  9. Najani, Niranjan, “Free as in Education”; available from http://www.maailma.kaapeli.fi/FLOSSReport1.0.html ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  10. Ghosh, Krieger, Glott, Robles, “Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study. Part 2B: Open Source Software in the Public Sector: Policy within the European Union”, June 2002, http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/FLOSSFinal_2b.pdf; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  11. “Kable Report on Open Source Software – Sponsored by Sun Microsystems”, 17 March 2003, Kable Ltd
  12. “Open Source Software – use within UK Government”, UK Gov Talk, 15 July 2002; available from http://www.govtalk.gov.uk/documents/oss_policydocument_2002-07-15.pdf ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  13. Ghosh, Krieger, Glott, Robles, “Free/Libre and Open Source Software: Survey and Study. Part 2B: Open Source Software in the Public Sector: Policy within the European Union”, June 2002; available from http://www.infonomics.nl/FLOSS/report/FLOSSFinal_2b.pdf; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  14. Najani, Niranjan, “Free as in Education”; available from http://www.maailma.kaapeli.fi/FLOSSReport1.0.html ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  15. Kanellos, Shankland, “Should government mandate open source?”, 12 August 2002, CNET News.com [home page online]; available from http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-949241.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  16. Barr, Joe, “Open source making headway in Texas government” 24 March 2003, Linuxworld.com [home page online]; available from http://www.linuxworld.com/2003/0324.barr.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  17. Duin, Steve, “Oregon is still a soft touch for Microsoft”, 5 May 2003, The Oregonian, available from http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf?/base/news/105377817415280.xml; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  18. “Use of Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS) in the U.S. Department of Defense”, 2 January 2003, Mitre Corporation; available from http://www.egovos.org/pdf/dodfoss.pdf ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  19. Wheeler, David, “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!” [home page online]; available from http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  20. Haber, Lynn, “City saves with Linux, thin clients”, 10 April 2003, ZDNet [home page online]; available from http://techupdate.zdnet.com/techupdate/stories/main/0,14179,2860180,00.html ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  21. Adelstein, Tom, “Linux Access in State and Local Government, Part II”, 19 June 2003, Linuxjournal.com; available from http://www.linuxjournal.com/article.php?sid=6952 ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  22. “Respuesta a Microsoft en idioma Ingles“ [home page online]; available from http://www.gnu.org.pe/resmseng.html (English translation); Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  23. “The Brazilian Public Sector to Choose Free Software”, 2 June 2003, PCLinuxOnline [home page online]; available from http://www.pclinuxonline.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=6879 ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  24. Williams, Martyn, “Japan, China, Korea plan joint open-source project”, 05 September 2003, IDG News Service; available from http://www.idg.com.sg/idgwww.nsf/unidlookup/04B8C8F13FF8653148256D98002BC4A2?OpenDocument ; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  25. Liu, Bob, “China to be stronghold for Open Source”, 5 November 2002, internetnews.com [home page online]; available from http://www.internetnews.com/stats/article.php/1494881; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  26. Najani, Niranjan, “Free as in Education”; available from http://www.maailma.kaapeli.fi/FLOSSReport1.0.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  27. China blocks foreign software use in gov't”, 18 August 2003, CNETAsia [home page online]; available from http://asia.cnet.com/newstech/applications/0,39001094,39146335,00.htm; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  28. Chai, Winston, “Governments are latching on to Linux”, 12 May 2003, CNETAsia [home page online]; available from http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-1000992.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  29. Berger, Matt, “ANALYSIS: Microsoft vs. open source gets political”, 10 June 2002, IDG News Service; available from http://www.idg.net/ic_874742_1793_1-1681.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  30. Hu, Qing Hua, “Yangfan and Qihang Project”, presented at the Asia OSS Symposium, 3-6 March 2003, Phuket, Thailand.
  31. Williams, Martyn, “Japan, China, Korea plan joint open-source project”, 05 September 2003, IDG News Service; available from http://www.idg.com.sg/idgwww.nsf/unidlookup/04B8C8F13FF8653148256D98002BC4A2?OpenDocument; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  32. Ribeiro, John, “India official: No government edict on open source” 1 April 2002, IDG News Services; available from http://www.computerworld.com/softwaretopics/os/linux/story/0,10801,79918,00.html?f=x249; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  33. Basu, Indrajit, “Microsoft takes on Linux in India”, 16 November 2002, Asia Times Online; available from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/DK16Df02.html; Internet; accessed on November 8, 2003.
  34. Sharma, Anil, “MP opens windows to Linux” 19 November 2003, The Economic Times; available from http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/cms.dll/html/uncomp/articleshow?artid=28707422; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  35. Pillai, Sanjay K., “Linux seen grabbing 10% of desktop OS segment” 26 February 2003, Business Standard; available from http://www.business-standard.com/today/story.asp?Menu=2&story=8930; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  36. Basu, Indrajit, “Microsoft takes on Linux in India”, 16 November 2002, Asia Times Online; available from http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/DK16Df02.html; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  37. Tai, Andy, “Taiwan to start national plan to push Free Software”, 3 June 2002, Kuro5hin [home page online]; available from http://www.kuro5hin.org/story/2002/6/3/55433/41738; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  38. Lui, John, “Thailand's cheap PCs 'force Microsoft's hand'”, 22 August 2003, CNETAsia, [home page online]; available from http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/windows/0,39020396,39115884,00.htm; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  39. Moreira, Charles “Malaysia backs open source”, 13 August 2002, The Star Online; available from http://asia.cnet.com/newstech/systems/0,39001153,39071821,00.htm; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  40. “DRB-HICOM’S efforts to Bridge the digital divide lauded” [home page online]; available from http://arfa.komnas.com/community/article.php?sid=5&mode=thread&order=0; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  41. Chai, Winston, “Japan mulls Windows replacement”, 21 November 2002, CNETAsia [home page online]; available from http://zdnet.com.com/2100-1104-966700.html; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  42. “Japan Government Payroll Computer System Will Use Linux, Not Windows”, 9 July 2003, Linuxworld.com [home page online]; available from http://www.linuxworld.com/story/33812.htm; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  43. Festa, Paul, “South Africa embraces open source”, 05 Feb 2003, CNET News [home page online]; available from http://news.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,39020381,2129893,00.htm; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  44. Ikhemuemhe, Godfrey, “Experts Advocate Open Source for NEPAD to Realise Its ICT Objectives”, 24 September 2003, AllAfrica.com [home page online]; available from http://allafrica.com/stories/200309240393.html; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  45. Wheeler, David, “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!”; [home page online]; available from http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
  46. “May 2003 Web Server Survey“ [home page online]; available from http://news.netcraft.com/archives/2003/05/05/may_2003_web_server_survey.html; Internet; accessed on June 9, 2003.
  47. Wheeler, David, “Why OSS/FS? Look at the Numbers!” [home page online]; available from http://www.dwheeler.com/oss_fs_why.html; Internet; accessed on November 9, 2003.
Last modified on 25 January 2014, at 15:35