Saturday, 9 July 2011

Indian Government Goes More Open Source

Governments across the globe are going open source, other than those who are either close to Microsoft or who have been bought by them. Emerging economies such as India and Brazil know the value of open source It  boosts local economy instead of filling the pockets of multi-national companies who have little or no interest in the development of the region.
The government of India, despite desperate measures from companies like Microsoft has always been pro-free software or open source. The government has prepared a draft for the "Policy on Device Drivers for Procurement of Hardware for e-Governance".

The goal of the policy is to to provide citizens with e-Governance services, which are technology-neutral, cost effective, interoperable and vendor-neutral.

The draft [PDF] exposes an inherent problem in offering such services in the manner mentioned above, "... while implementing such systems, there is a possibility of non-availability of Device Drivers for all General Purpose Operating Systems (OS)."
This lead the government to form a policy for procurement of Computers and associated Peripherals to empower the implementation of e-Governance projects with neutrality to all General Purpose OS.

"The Policy provides the guidelines for the procurement of Hardware (Computers and Peripherals) for e-Governance applications which can work on any General Purpose OS and provide a platform-neutral framework for their procurement. This will also ensure smooth migration and porting of applications across General Purpose OS."

The Policy shall be applicable in the procurement of computers and associated peripherals for all new e-Governance projects of GoI from the date it comes into effect.

The Policy shall be applicable to existing e-Governance projects also, when the existing Computers and associated Peripherals are upgraded / augmented by procuring new Computers and Peripherals.

The OEMs offering solutions to the GoI should guaranteed and ensure that:
  • The Computers shall be capable of running on all General Purpose Operating Systems(OS)
  • OEMs shall provide Drivers for Computers and Peripherals, which are capable of running on all General Purpose OS.
  • The Drivers of Computers and Peripherals for GNU/Linux (one of the General Purpose OS) shall satisfy any of the following conditions:
  • The source code, build procedure and installation instructions for the Drivers must be made available as per any of the Open Source Software (OSS) Licenses listed in Part-IV. Computers and Peripherals must be operational using these Drivers in the latest stable Linux-Kernel.
  • The source code, build procedure and installation instructions for the Drivers must comply with LSB-3.0 or higher versions and accepted by any of the Linux-Distributions.
  • In case only binaries are made available for the Drivers, then they shall be Linux-Compatible; in addition, kernel dependent binaries must adhere to the specifications of the latest stable Linux-Kernel.
The open source licences the government is looking for are clearly inspired by the vision of Free Software Foundation. According to the draft, the licence that the Government of India considers Open Source are the ones which "gives freedom to copy, modify and redistribute driver source code without any restrictions".
Unfortunately, we don't see the same desire for open source in US policies. Unlike India, most US government offices are reported to be running decade old Windows 98 machines with IE5, running on top of it.
Will the US learn any lessons from the IT superpower and instead of working for the welfare of the corporations, with laws such as DCMA and Software patents, start working towards the welfare of THE PEOPLE?

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