Bigwigs form S'pore open-source group

Bigwigs form S'pore open-source group

Summary: Industry alliance comprising heavyweights like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, has been formed to promote open-source software adoption in Singapore.


SINGAPORE--A nine-member industry alliance comprising heavyweights like IBM and Hewlett-Packard, has been formed to promote open-source software adoption in Singapore.

Spearheaded by Resolvo Systems, a Singapore-based Linux solutions provider, the Singapore Open Source Alliance (Sosa) will also converse with chief information officers in government bodies as well as small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), to accelerate the growth of open-source software in the island-state.

Other than IBM and HP, the alliance also consists of Red Hat, Novell, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Apple and Intel, according to Yap Boon Leong, business development director of Resolvo Systems. "Sosa is possibly the only open-source consortium in the world involving several key industry heavyweights," he told ZDNet Asia.

Yap added that the alliance aims to increase Singapore's use of open-source software in specific application areas like data centers, desktop PCs, intranet content management, virtualization and storage.

A hardware compatibility list will also be drawn up and maintained by Sosa members to help businesses determine if their hardware can run open-source software, he said.

John Phipps, IBM Singapore's government programs executive, said alliances such as Sosa are "very effective in raising the level of understanding on open-source technologies".

"In Singapore, we want to see a broader understanding of open-source technologies so that companies here have a firm understanding of what's going on in open-source, open standards and interoperability," he said.

Smaller IT companies with limited IT resources can also benefit by joining Sosa, to get insights on market trends, he said. They can also gain access to bigger vendors to whom they can sell services to later on, he added.

Harish Pillay, Red Hat Asia-Pacific's manager of partner development, said Sosa will paint Singapore in a more positive light when others question the state of open-source adoption in the country.

"When people ask about what Singapore is doing (with open-source), the answer is nothing much," he said. "Hopefully, this initiative will help to increase awareness and adoption of open-source technologies."

Bottom of the barrel
Pillay added that open-source technologies are developing at a rapid pace and "we cannot afford to wait because the region is catching up quickly." He noted that Singapore is already lagging behind other countries in this area.

"We are at the bottom of the barrel. Countries like Malaysia and Indonesia have (released) government statements promoting open-source, but we don’t have one (here)."

David Tang, business partner manager of Novell Singapore, said Singapore's IT leadership in the region is largely contributed by proprietary software vendors. "(Singapore) has a stake with the vendors because of their huge investment. Because of that, the general populace is wary of trying out open-source."

Tang cited an example of a local polytechnic which only saw 20 out of 800 IT students sign up to be part of an open-source special interest group.

Shocked by the numbers, he had questioned the school authorities, who said "people would generally go with what is acceptable and widely used, rather than try something different."

Tang added that the polytechnic could not be convinced to install dual-boot machines with Windows and Linux because it said its students would not be able to accept the open-source OS. "It's an uphill climb," he said.

Future generations in Singapore may be leapfrogged by countries like Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, if the country does not embrace open-source on a wider scale, he said.

Tang also noted that IBM staff in the Philippines had recently contributed to IBM Redbooks on Linux--a technical whitepaper on deploying the open-source platform. "But, we have none in Singapore who has contributed to Redbooks," he said. "If we are fearful of the future, we are going to be fearful of our neighbors in IT because they have wholeheartedly embraced open-source."

While Singapore is perceived to be playing second fiddle to other countries in the region in open-source, it also boasts of some well-known case studies. For example, the country's Ministry of Defense has some 20,000 desktops installed with OpenOffice office productivity suite last year.

Topics: Software, Open Source, Operating Systems

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  • As I had mentioned in my previous blogs (, we need to attack the educational framework in all countries for Open Source to work. Tiertary education must be about education and not who/which company can provide (the education centers) the most discounts or most grants to conduct their business of education the students.

    It's also not about what is acceptable and widely used. This is about education, and educationers MUST teach students to know what they're doing rather than blindly follow the crowd and go click-happy.

    This is truly pathetic.

    Come on people, focus on education. Focus on creating people who knows how to think and perform the work. Costs must take a back seat, especially where educating the next leaders of the country is concerned.
  • The picture of Linux use and adoption in Singapore is not as bad as painted in the article. I know of several secondary schools with Linux curriculum planned, conducted or on-going, and many organisations using and deploying Linux.

    As for open source development in Singapore - there are several active groups contributing to global open source efforts in major ways, both in commercial and academic institutions. These include : HyperSCSI from Data Storage Institute, GEL (Grid Execution Language) from Bioinformatics Institute, Rocks from Scalable Systems and many other projects (Linux and BSD).

    I would not attribute the fact that Singapore is "lagging behing" our neighbours in open source adoption due to ignorance, fear, inflexibility or a govt policy (or lack of). Instead it is mostly because the Singapore govt IT infrastructure is much more mature and alot more investments into proprietary software have happened before the arrival of open source software. With the Y2K replacement cycle happening and new govt projects - we see an increasing number of tenders and ITQs asking for Linux and open source either as the solution or as an alternative.

    I would not consider the mass adoption of Linux and open source in govt and commercial organisations in a country to be a sign of open source maturity.

    It is instead the contributions (code development, documentations, funding, active participation in the community) the individuals and organisations in the country make towards Linux and open source that would put Singapore on the worldmap and make an impact - and not " Ministry of Defense has some 20,000 desktops installed with OpenOffice office productivity suite".
  • I've been in GNU/Linux for a few years now, and all I want to say is that the rate of Linux adoption is pathetic in Singapore.

    In fact, knowledge-wise, Singaporeans are actually very limited. Most of them even attribute well-known companies of acheivements I don't even dare think of. Things like user-friendliness, people take them like how the term "responsibility" is used -- for its sake.

    For example, my TEACHER cannot even grasp simple ideas like the recursive name of GNU, much less even hear of it. I thought General Paper teachers are meant to know things that have been in the headlines, at least. My peers also have much trouble with ideas like this.

    An IBM employee that used to work in my school as a Technical Administrator, simply didn't fit the bill. I can still clearly remember how he would work till he breaks out in perspiration (in air-conditioned rooms) to repair computers, in vain. Sometimes, the problems can be as easy as a display setting, and I would secretly help him since he will not accept student help.

    Until the HP TA came along, he created hell for us.

    However, things are not getting much better. Although the Merlin system is crashing less often, the printer system in my present school is constantly giving headaches. The only way to try to print is to give the server a cold reset. It takes a very long time to reset the computer (everything will have to be sent over the net to boot it) and it will last a very short time after the reset. Normally, 2 or 3 cold resets have to be done at once. More than 10 will easily take out the day. Imagine the fustration.

    If that is not enough, even using firefox and insisting on using free software will be punished. My teachers just cannot live without giving out papers in the venerable Word Document Format that, for heaven's sake, will not work in its own reader in another computer. And most of the websites in Singapore won't render nicely in Firefox.

    Finally, I have a friend who provides server access as his hobby. One fine day, a Chinese client called, and one of his requirements is that the Operating System must be Microsoft Windows Server 2003. We simply refused to provide a lousy service since we have already seen the power of free software -- Linux is the only way.