Philippines making progress in open source push

The Philippines' National Computer Center (NCC) is making headway in promoting the use of open source technologies in government agencies, despite the lack of a high-level policy to support such a direction.

Just recently, the agency has implemented databases developed on open source technology in selected Department of Science and Technology (DOST) regional offices as a pilot run of the management information system project of the DOST.

The project, being set up by the NCC, aims to showcase applications that can be standard for all government information systems. "The nationwide deployment of the applications will also serve as a test-bed for open source technologies," said Delfin J. Sabido IX, director-general with the NCC, during a monthly forum at the NCC.

The databases developed on open source software include personnel and human resources systems, a contact management system and a document tracking system.

Sabido reiterated his call for an open source approach to government information systems, particularly in the implementation of the Government Information System Plan (GISP). GISP is the government's overall blueprint for the computerization of all its agencies.

"The DOST MIS is part of such an approach and we hope through it we can make people aware that open source technologies exists, that it is user-friendly and that it will bring in more benefits," said Sabido.

Asked if an executive order would help promote the use of open source software further, Sabido said the NCC would determine if such a move would be necessary.

"Personally, I want to let the people see the benefits first and then let them decide if they want to use it or not. There is no need to force anybody," he said. "For now, the NCC would like to show the real benefits of open source technologies through actual projects it is working on."

In support of the DOST MIS and other open source projects of the NCC, programmers from the NCC and the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), an attached agency of the DOST that is also developing open source applications, are currently receiving training on Web site development using PHP (PHP Hypertext Preprocessor).

Sabido said the programmers will be tasked to develop Web sites for other government agencies that have no Web presence yet as well as assist in coming up with user-friendly versions of open source applications.

The NCC is also working closely with the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Development Academy of the Philippines for the development of open source information systems for local government units (LGUs).

"The NCC has already developed some application systems for LGUs, but these are not based on an open source platform," said Sabido. "We are now converting these application systems to open source for LGU use so we can provide them a cost-effective solution for their IS plans."

The agency will also participate in the establishment of an e-government portal, which is one of the priority ICT projects of the GISP identified by the Information Technology and E-Commerce Council (ITECC).

Sabido said the initiative will use open source technologies and it will serve as a template for the Web sites of government agencies. He added that the initiative will be different from the Web site, which is the site of the Office of the President. "The e-government portal is really where people can go to access all government-related services. It aims to become a one-stop shop where online transactions for these services are made possible."