Open source pushed at Ghana meeting

Some argue for changes in procurement rules

Open-source software developers, governments and entrepreneurs are meeting in Ghana to address ways to promote innovation and develop legislation that does not favor proprietary software in procurements.

African governments have been accused of failing to provide level playing fields in procurement processes because some of the invitations to tender specify particular software, locking out other solutions.

African governments need to increase ICT budgets and investments in order to foster innovation and solve some of the socioeconomic problems that affect the continent, said Haruna Idrisu, minister of communication in Ghana.

The government of Brazil sent Debora Reis to share experiences on open-source policies and how the government has promoted innovation and created jobs and entrepreneurship opportunities through open source. As a result of its efforts there are 38 different applications available for download and customization by businesses, public institutions and governments, according to Reis.

Chile, Costa Rica, Peru, Paraguay, Cuba and Venezuela are some of the countries that have downloaded software, which is available in Portuguese, Spanish and English.

The open-source entrepreneurs attending the meeting were challenged to provide solutions capable of matching proprietary software, and also to raise awareness of their offerings.

"Most government representatives know the software vendors because they invest in marketing officers, channel partners and participate in events; entrepreneurs providing open-source solutions need to be visible and provide practical solutions," said Dorcas Muthoni, CEO, Open World Limited.

South Africa is the only African government that has adopted an open-source policy. However, it has no enforcement mechanism to ensure that public authorities do not continue spending money on expensive software when there are affordable open-source solutions.

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