Open source software has gained considerable traction of the past decade, with companies and organizations across the world investing millions in upgrading and adopting new open source technologies. Indeed, it is the flexibility, interoperability, customizability, and security of open source that makes it so appealing to companies.

In fact, 1998, only 10% of organizations were using open source software (OSS); by 2011, more than 50% of organizations surveyed by Gartner reported using open source software. Moreover, by the end of this year, 2,000,000 open source projects are projected – twice as many as in 2012.

It is no wonder, therefore, that earlier this week, the Indian Government announced that its software applications are “set to make the shift” to open source. As part of the Digital India initiative, the government is believed to be preparing a policy that calls for a change to open source.

“We don’t want to make it a question of ideology but wherever possible, we want to make use of open source,” RS Sharma, secretary, department of electronics and information technology, told The Economic Times. “We are also preparing something like a SourceForge, where we will open up the source code of all the existing software and crowd source development like on Github,” he continued.

The proposed plan could have huge benefits for improving egovernance in India – especially when one considers the $6.4 billion the country is set to spend on IT products and services this year. By moving to open source, the government could save incredible amounts of money by not having to be locked in to specific vendors, and can therefore customise each software according to the needs of the various government agencies.

As the Economic Times explains, “according to an early version of the ‘Policy On Collaborative Application Development by Opening the Source Code of Government Applications…the source code of hundreds of custom applications run by various government bodies is to be shared among government agencies and maintained in a common repository.”

Indeed, aside from the benefits of reduced IT costs and faster project deployment, the other key advantage of the proposed plan is the possibility of “scaling up skill development in open source.” According to a recent survey, six in every ten respondents mentioned ‘serious problems finding the right IT skills to implement and manage open source solutions.’ With the new open source proposal, India could pioneer the way in training these professionals by implementing the initiative for the government.

Whether the proposal will receive political backing is yet to be seen. However, as Jay Puller, CEO of Pramati Technologies, told ET, “Given the diversity and plurality of the nation, open source adoption is the best approach and rightly chosen by the government.”

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(Image Credit: Global Panorama)

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