Cuba to migrate to open source

Country's technology leaders distance themselves from Microsoft with wide-ranging plans for open source

The Cuban government is to migrate thousands of its computers to open-source software, in a move that distances the communist nation from US-based Microsoft.

Several Cuban government ministers backed the move at a technology conference held late last week. Communications minister Ramiro Valdes gave a pro-open source opening keynote, while Richard Stallman, head of the Free Software Foundation, also told the conference that proprietary software is inherently insecure.

A Cuban academic, Hector Rodriguez, is supporting the migration to open source by heading up a development programme within one of the largest Cuban universities. Cuba's customs service has already migrated to Linux, while the ministries of culture, higher education and communications are planning to do so, Rodriguez told the conference.

But Rodriguez, quoted by the Associated Press, declined to say how long it would take for the Cuban government to migrate most of its systems to Linux. "It would be tough for me to say that we would migrate half the public administration in three years," he told the conference.

The number of Cuban open-source users is growing fast, with around 3,000 in a country that struggles with outdated PCs and slow internet links.

Other governments, including Venezuela, China, Brazil and Norway, are evaluating a partial or total migration from Windows to open source. Many city administrations are also running projects. In Europe, programmes in Bristol, Amsterdam and Munich are well underway.