Indian government mandates use of open source software

Country's Ministry of Communication and Information Technology releases new policy that makes it mandatory for all e-government systems to be deployed on open source software.
Written by Eileen Yu, Senior Contributing Editor

The Indian government has decreed the use of open source software across all systems used by the public sector, mandating that all Request for Proposals (RFPs) to instruct suppliers to consider the use of such applications.

In its policy unveiled this week, the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology said open source adoption was necessary to support the government's goal to transform India into a "digitally empowered society and a knowledge economy". It added that the country had always advocated the use of open standards and open source technologies in the public sector to tap the touted economic benefits of doing so.

"The government of India shall endeavor to adopt open source software in all e-government systems implemented by various government organizations, as a preferred option in comparison to closed source software," the ministry wrote.

The policy states that all open source software deployed must be built on source codes that are available for the community and implementer to study, modify, and redistribute in copies of the original or modified software. Its source codes also must be free from any forms of royalty.

The policy applies to both central and state governments in India, and must be observed for all new e-government applications and systems as well as new versions of legacy and existing systems.

RFPs must include a specific requirement for all suppliers to consider open source software, along with closed source software, when they submit their bids for the project. Should they choose to exclude open source, suppliers are to provide justification for doing so in their bids.

"Government organizations shall ensure compliance with this requirement and decide by comparing both open source and closed source software options with respect to capability, strategic control, scalability, security, life-time costs, and support requirements," the ministry said.

Exceptions will be considered "in certain specialized domains" where open source offerings may not fulfil essential functional requirements, or when there is a lack of skillsets in specific technology segments, of if there is urgent need to implement closed source software.

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