South Korean govt goes open source

Thousands of computers in government ministries, agencies and universities will have their proprietary software replaced by open-source alternatives during the next three years

The South Korean government has announced a plan to have proprietary software on a substantial number of its PCs and servers replaced with open-source alternatives by 2007.

Thousands of computers in ministries, government-linked organisations and universities in South Korea will replace the Microsoft Windows operating system and Office productivity suite with open-source alternatives under the plan, according to the country's Ministry of Information and Communication.

Twenty percent of desktop software and 30 percent of server software will be changed to open source by 2007, said a spokesperson from the Ministry of Information and Communication.

As a first step, organisations including South Korea's Industry Promotion Agency and Korea Association of Information and Telecommunication will switch to open-source software such as the Linux operating system and Mozilla Web browser for both desktop PCs and servers.

"If the change is successful, we will be able to save about $300m a year. Also, we may insure security and inter-connectivity of national information system," the spokesperson continued.

However, industry experts have expressed scepticism, saying that the country's software developers don’t have the resources to support both Windows and Linux.

Also, Microsoft Korea claimed that commercial software was never highly expensive. Microsoft Korea marketing director Kwon Chan said that although open source software may seem to be cheaper initially, it will eventually cost more, once maintenance and management costs are considered.

However, the South Korea government said it is on the side of competition.

"We will allow anyone who uses open-source software access to Web-based services. Once that environment is made ready, then true competition will evolve," a spokesperson for the government said.

Currently, Linux users are not able to use several key Korean Web-based services. For example, many portals run by banks and government agencies support only Microsoft's Windows operating system and Internet Explore (IE) browser.

The Ministry of Information and Communication will get help from other government ministries to ensure active participation from open source groups.

Last month, Japan, China and South Korea met in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh to sign an agreement to jointly research and develop non-Windows, open-source OS.