Malaysia's schools get OpenOffice.org

Move will affect some 300,000 PCs across the country, after government made the decision based on "positive" case studies, says local official.

The Malaysian government has unveiled plans to roll out OpenOffice.org in schools across the nation--a move that will affect some 300,000 PCs.

Announced Wednesday by the chief minister of the state of Terengganu, the initiative will see all 467 schools in the Malaysian state using the open source office suite from January next year.

Some 100 schools in the state are already using OpenOffice.org, after the first phase of deployment began in January this year, according to a statement from the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU). MAMPU is a government agency that was set up to study the feasibility of implementing open source software in the public sector.

The decision was made based on case studies of other government agencies in the country, which have had successful implementations, Khairil Yusof, a MAMPU spokesperson, told ZDNet Asia in an e-mail interview.

Noting that increased security and knowledge-sharing were some of the positive findings of these case studies, Yusof said: "[The] open source deployments were not affected by viruses. The case studies also highlighted that staff were able to build their skills and knowledge due to the wealth of free information and tutorials associated with open source technologies available on the Internet."

The savings on licensing costs were an added draw for the government's decision to embark on open source deployments. MAMPU said: "Combined, [government agencies] have saved millions of ringgit for licensing fees [with the] expenditure now spent [elsewhere] to provide better public services."

Already an open source supporter
Yusof noted that open source software is not new to Malaysia's government agencies. Melaka, Kedah, Pahang and Sabah have adopted OpenOffice.org--with Melaka and Kedah at the forefront having done so since 2003, he said.

Overall, 281 agencies nationwide have adopted open source software, according to MAMPU.

"The migration at the agencies in which MAMPU has assisted, have had positive results," Yusof added, citing successful implementations at the Ministry of Human Resources and Meteorology Department as examples.

"The Ministry of Human Resources has migrated over 2,000 users with very few problem reports… To date, over 10,000 seats in over 15 agencies have fully migrated [to open source software]," he said.

He noted that news of the move to OpenOffice.org has caught some by surprise, because of the lack of fanfare accompanying each deployment.

"Some have been [involved] since 2003 with little information shared [publicly]... [so, it seems as if] suddenly [people] are finding out that entire states are moving [to open source]," Yusof said.

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