Governments in countries without strong IT infrastructure or skills are utilising free and open source software as part of a comprehensive plan to “boot strap” the populace into technology, a leading Linux representative has claimed.
Speaking at the Linux.conf.au event in Adelaide on Friday, former Debian Project Leader and Hewlett-Packard Linux CTO Bdale Garbee said for the cost of paying a foreign software company to provide a software solution, governments in countries such as Spain and Brazil are in favour of developing their own localised software with free and open source code.
“Sending huge amounts of money out of the country to raise their IT technology doesn’t make sense,” he said.
“Free and open source software makes sense to governments because it gives them the freedom to pick and choose and customise software.”
Focusing on the community aspect of free and open source software development, Garbee noted the Internet has allowed for the formation of new community classes to form. But in the process, the Web has created a problem of digital divide.
“This is a driver for government to invest in the open source community today,” he said.
Garbee used the example of an 80,000 seat deployment of its own customised Linux distribution across the public schools system in the regional area of Extremadura, Spain, as illustrative of the way governments can utilise Linux to drive their community into the information age.
“This is not some branch of the US military which is excited about extra infrastructure. This is going into the hands of everyday people where there isn’t a strong installed base of something else,” Garbee said.
The former leader of the Debian project was quick to point out that governments, such as the one in Spain, were increasingly using Debian Linux for these community projects.
While acknowledging his “rose-coloured glasses” view on Debian, Garbee said the Debian project’s commitment to a set of shared values makes it a great choice for governments creating their own Linux solution.
“Debian makes sense to people who are working on socially significant projects around the world,” he said.
“It’s such an open and inclusive project with a strong sense of freedom which works well with the community.”