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Open Source Software & the Government of India
The Indian Government recently released its policy on adoption and use of Open Source Software (OSS) for government projects. The policy seeks to cut costs and improve flexibility by using, implementing and contributing to OSS development. The policy mandates that preference in government software projects must be given to OSS, and Closed Source Software (CSS) must only be an exception when OSS is not available.
The Preamble of the policy reads as follows:
“Government of India (GoI) is implementing the Digital India programme as an umbrella programme to prepare India for acknowledge based transformation into a digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy. Under the overarching vision of Digital India, GoI aims to make Government services digitally accessible to citizens in their localities and to ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs. To meet this objective, there is a need to set up a commensurate hardware and software infrastructure, which may require significant resources. Organizations worldwide have adopted innovative alternative solutions in order to optimize costs by exploring avenues of “Open Source Software”.
GoI has also been promoting the use of open source technologies in the e-Governance domain within the country in order to leverage economic and strategic benefits. Further, the National Policy on Information Technology, 2012 has mentioned, as one of its objectives, to “Adopt open standards and promote open source and open technologies”.
In view of the above, there is a need to formulate a policy for Government Organizations to adopt OSS. The “Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software for Government of India” (hereinafter referred to as “Policy”) will encourage the formal adoption and use of Open Source Software (OSS) in Government Organizations.
The objectives are as follows:
To provide a policy framework for rapid and effective adoption of OSS.
To ensure strategic control in e-Governance applications and systems from a long-term perspective.
To reduce the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of projects.
The adoption of OSS is an inevitable reality and the Indian Government has made a move in the right direction. However, the fulfillment would have been even sweeter if the emphasis was on freedom, rather than on cost. Whatever said and done, we are confident that this will propel the development of software infrastructure in India.
Also, to ensure OSS compliance and avoid OSS risks in an integrated manner, it would be very useful if the government can put forth open source license guidelines, and due diligence measures. This will go a long way in maintaining integrity of OSS and mitigating/handling risks. Also, it might be a good idea for the government to have its own OS license, which will govern all its software and promote its philosophy.