Indonesia’s Answer to Global Digital Divide: Shift to Open Source Software
Ismira Lutfia & Anita Rachman
If you can’t afford legal software, then switch to open source.
That’s the campaign of the State Ministry for Research and Technology, which will step up the use of free open source applications to ensure all government departments are using legal software by December 2011.
Kemal Prihatman, assistant deputy of information technology development at the state ministry, said on Friday a number of initiatives were already planned, including hosting the Global Conference on Open Source in Jakarta on Oct. 26-27, and building a database of government computers.
“We have started to collect all the data and we are sure that by the end of the year we’ll have all the necessary data to start mapping the legal software and open source users,” he said.
Kemal said that although exact figures were not yet available, he believed the number of open source users was growing, especially in large cities such as Jakarta where computers are sold with preinstalled legal software.
It is estimated that only around 800,000 of the eight million computers nationwide use open source software, the majority of them in government institutions.
Betti Alisjahbana, chairwoman of the Indonesian Association of Open Source (AOSI), said the migration to open source software as opposed to paying for proprietary products such as Microsoft Windows would save money.
She said the use of open source software in the country was increasing rapidly among computer users at government departments, academic institutions and state-owned enterprises.
“It is easier for private companies to switch to open source software for budget efficiency reasons,” Betti said, adding that the move was fueled in part by the obligatory use of legal software, as defined in the 2002 Law on Intellectual Property Rights.
“Therefore, people have two options: either to pay for licensed software or go open source,” she said, adding that most people and institutions that chose open source appreciated the quality of the applications and its popularity with users.
Betti said the country could benefit from the increased use of open source software because the development of information and communication technology was important to improve national competitiveness.
“If we use proprietary software, we have to pay for it and most of the software is copyrighted by companies from developed countries,” Betti said.
“So if we do that, it will only make them more developed and leave us behind.”
She added that open source software provided a flat competition where everyone could use, develop and benefit from the available software without having to pay for a license.
“This could narrow the gap with developed countries because we all start from the same place,” she said.
Betti’s association is cooperating with government institutions to campaign for the migration to open source software, and 18 government institutions, including the National Police, have signed a memorandum of understanding on the switch.
“We started the program in 10 institutions in which 50 PCs were installed with open source software as part of a pilot migration project,” Betti said, adding that the project included the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.