The Indian government has prepared a draft to define policies on procuring hardware for e-governance projects.
The hardware procured for the e-governance initiatives by the central and state governments did not have a defined policy as yet. The Department of Information Technology has issued a public draft with guidelines that hardware vendors (computers and peripherals) will have to adhere to. The guidelines largely cover the Achilles' heel of computing - device drivers. For the software and hardware to work well, drivers need to be optimized for the operating system on the computer.
Unix based systems need a different set of drivers for the same hardware installed on a Windows machine. The drivers need to be updated along with the OS for system optimization. The new rules being proposed by the Department of IT make it explicitly clear that the hardware supplied by the vendors must have proper driver support for open source Operating Systems. The relevant guidelines from the policy:
I-4.1. The Computers shall be capable of running on all General Purpose Operating Systems(OS)
I-4.2. OEMs shall provide Drivers for Computers and Peripherals, which are capable of running on all General Purpose OS.
I-4.3. The Drivers of Computers and Peripherals for GNU/Linux ( one of the General Purpose OS) shall satisfy any of the following conditions;
I-4.3.1. The source code, build procedure and installation instructions for the Drivers must be made available as per any of the Open Source Software (OSS) Licenses listed in Part-IV. Computers and Peripherals must be operational using these Drivers in the latest stable Linux-Kernel.
I-4.3.2. The source code, build procedure and installation instructions for the Drivers must comply with LSB-3.0 or higher versions and accepted by any of the LinuxDistributions.
I-4.3.3. In case only binaries are made available for the Drivers, then they shall be Linux-Compatible; in addition, kernel dependent binaries must adhere to the specifications of the latest stable Linux-Kernel.
Speaking to The Times of India, a government official said, "There will definitely be a delay in the procurement process, but that will be less serious compared to the problem associated with implementation of e-governance systems non-compliant with this policy." The e-governance programs in India have caught the attention of other countries who are interested in implementing similar projects, at the same time are allowing Indian and international firms compete for these projects. In case of drivers being supplied by a third party and not the vendor, the document suggests the following:
The cost of the driver should be included as part of the Computers and Peripherals while competing during tendering. The Vendors are responsible for the delivery of the necessary drivers with full functionalities; but there is no additional cost charged to the procuring agency while delivering the driver.
The focus on open source code for the e-Governance projects will enforce OEMs to spend resources on optimizing drivers for the hardware and further validates India's open source efforts.
PDF link to the draft