Indian Ministry of Communications and IT by issuing a policy has made it mandatory to use open source software in all e-governance systems in an effort to ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability at affordable cost.
In its policy statement, government has also defined the characteristics of Open Source Software to adopt in government projects. It says,
The Open Source Software shall have the following characteristics:
- The source code shall be available for the community / adopter/ end user to study and modify the software and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified software.
- Source code shall be free from any royalty.
As stated in the policy, to comply with this requirements, all Government Organizations, while implementing e-Governance applications and systems must include a specific requirement in Request for Proposal (RFP) for all suppliers to consider Open Source Software (OSS) along with Closed Source Software while responding.
Suppliers shall provide justification for exclusion of OSS in their response, as the case may be.
To implement it, all future Requests for Proposals (RFPs) of e-Governance projects shall include a mandatory clause for considering Open Source Software (OSS) as a preferred option in comparison to Closed Source Software (CSS).
At present, most e-government projects are using CSS in which user has limited rights to do modification, redistribution, reverse engineering and sharing.
India is not the only country to choose open source software over proprietary tools. Countries like US, UK and Germany has also opted for open source software.
What is Open Source Software?
OSS is commonly known as Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). Here the “Free” refers to “Freedom to use” and not “Free of Charge”. Here “Open Source” refers to the “availability of Source code for the community / adopter/ end-user to study and modify the software and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified software (without having to pay royalties to previous developers).
What is Closed Source Software?
Closed Source Software or proprietary software typically prohibits the access to or modification of the source code. It restricts the copy, modification, distribution and reuse of the software. The restrictions may be applicable to the whole or part of the software so that the control is with the concerned company. Revenue, profit and IPR drive the development and marketing of the products and solutions.