M'sian public sector bolsters OSS adoption

Open source momentum gets boost from Malaysia's government-led initiative that sees 71.1 percent of public sector agencies deploy open source software.

KUALA LUMPUR--The number of public sector agencies adopting open source software (OSS) continues to rise rapidly, with 71.1 percent of the country's government offices having deployed OSS so far.

According to the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (Mampu), as of mid-July, 515 of the country's 724 public sector agencies have adopted OSS. This compares with 354 agencies in 2008 and 163 in 2007.

The OSS Master Plan

Launched in July 2004, Malaysia's Public Sector OSS Master Plan was designed to encourage and guide government agencies to adopt and deploy OSS. The initiative included the establishment of the Open Source Competency Centre, tasked to lead and support OSS implementation across the public sector.
The plan outlined a roadmap comprising three phrases, including early adoption spanning 2004 to 2006. Now in its second phase, which ends 2010, the initiative is focusing on accelerated adoption nationwide.

Of the 515 agencies, 435 have deployed OSS in its backend infrastructure and 404 are using OSS desktop applications. A total of 223 were federal government agencies while the remaining 292 were state government agencies.

Noting that the Malaysian government is an early adopter of OSS, Mampu's director-general, Normah Yusof, said: "We launched our Public Sector OSS Master Plan in 2004 and have been actively executing the plan ever since." The government unit focuses on various efforts aimed at improving the efficiency of Malaysian public services, including IT initiatives such as open source, Normah told reporters at the recent MSC Malaysia Open Source Conference.

A year before the ambitious 2004 master plan was launched, only 25 public sector agencies had adopted open source, she added.

To date, the public sector has implemented 1,674 OSS projects with total savings exceeding 48.8 million ringgit (US$14 million). According to a June 2009 issue of the Open Source Competency Centre (OSCC) Mampu newsletter, 295 agencies have deployed OpenOffice.org, totaling almost 20,000 installed seats and saving the Malaysian government over 18.8 million ringgit (US$5.4 million) in licensing fees.

An OSCC official said the increase in OSS adoption among government agencies has been "exponential" in recent years. "Without doubt, there has been a big surge," said Stanly Tan, knowledge bank manager at the OSCC, which was established and currently operated by the Mampu to facilitate OSS implementation in the public sector.

Tan attributed the rapid adoption of OSS to the effective implementation of the Public Sector OSS Master Plan. Under this initiative, the Mampu and OSCC extensively promoted the use of OSS and invited government agencies to attend workshops on open source adoption and implementation, he said.

To further boost adoption of OSS, the center also made available various open source applications and toolkits to public sector agencies, he added. For example, it developed a package for OpenOffice.org implementation, providing a step-by-step guide to help agencies migrate to OpenOffice from other office productivity suites such as Microsoft Office, said Tan.

The OSCC also developed the OSS Development Toolkit, a collection of OSS tools suitable for use in a Windows environment and application development. Available for free distribution, the toolkit was compiled and documented to provide a set of common tools needed in a typical software development lifecycle (SDLC). Other open source applications available to government agencies include MyMeeting, MySpamGuard, MyNetWatch and MyWorkSpace.

According to Tan, the OSCC and Mampu are hopeful of achieving 100 percent OSS adoption across all government agencies before the Master Plan enters its third phase of implementation next year.

The Malaysian government's progress in OSS adoption has not gone unnoticed by other countries. The Mampu's Normah said: "Saudi Arabia has requested our assistance to establish its own OSCC, and we have obliged."

Lee Min Keong is a freelance IT writer based in Malaysia.