Philippines launches Linux for government project

To provide government agencies with an alternative platform to the more costly proprietary systems, Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) recently launched an open source operating system called Bayanihan Linux.

Bayanihan Linux allows PC users to perform 99 percent of the tasks done on a commercial office software for less than 1 percent of the cost, claims ASTI. The institute is the research agency of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).

According to Peter Banzon, officer-in-charge of ASTI's Computer Software Division, since Bayanihan Linux was developed using open standards, where the source code is not owned by a single company, users need not pay license fees to use it.

Aside from being more cost-effective, he said Bayanihan Linux is more reliable and more secure. "In comparison to proprietary software, studies show that open source software is more reliable and less prone to ‘crashing.' Commercial software has many ‘dark corners' where bugs and other errors remain undetected. Debugging is not possible since the code to correct these errors is not available," he explained.

Open Source Project

Bayanihan Linux was developed based on the Red Hat flavor of the open source Linux software. It comes with an office productivity suite called Open Office 1.0 which allows PC users to perform basic office tasks such as word processing and general ledger.

According to Banzon, six ASTI programmers collaborated over nine months to complete the project. Much of the work focused on finding software applications equivalent to those offered by the more popular commercial software.

"The outcome of all the efforts is an installation CD of Bayanihan Linux that has both the operating system as well as the applications, all in one," he said.

Banzon added that ASTI's Linux complies with most industry standards and will interoperate or coexist with existing commercial application software and data files. Minimum requirements for installing the OS and its applications include a Pentium-compatible PC, 64M bytes of memory, 250M bytes of hard disk space, and a VGA or higher resolution graphic device with at least 256 colors.

Bayanihan Linux can be downloaded through the Internet or from CD copies.

Although the original intent is to make the copies available to government agencies for free, Banzon said they are also looking at the prospect of marketing Bayanihan Linux to the general public, but just for a minimal fee.

"This project is more of an advocacy work. We just want to make people aware that there are alternatives to the more expensive applications we have become so accustomed with," he said.

Hopefully, the project will also help boost technology adoption among government agencies, since it addresses the basic issues of cost and security.

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