Malaysia mandates open source use

If Microsoft Corp. chairman Bill Gates thought he had worries about open source stealing market share from Microsoft in the Australian public sector, Malaysia has just proved to be a much bigger problem.

Less than a month after Gates’ high-profile roadshow through Asia, the Malaysian government has mandated the in-house deployment of open source software (OSS) in what may well be the biggest national backlash against proprietary software in the world, according to a report in Malaysia’s national daily newspaper.

The technology section of The Star Online reports all Malaysian government technology procurement will be required to give preference to open source software under a new Malaysian Public Sector Open Source Software Masterplan.

The report quotes the Masterplan as saying, “Where advantages and disadvantages of OSS and proprietary software are equal, preference shall be given to OSS.”

Chief secretary to the Malaysian government, Tan Sri Samsudin Osman is also quoted as saying that ICT suppliers will have to follow the government’s lead in light of the new government commitment to the plan. Osman was speaking at a government-sponsored Open Source Competency Center, which is aimed at getting Malaysian OSS skill sets up and running.

Outwardly, the plan appears nothing short of bold with targets set for public sector suppliers as early as next year.

The Star quotes government sources as saying 60 per cent of all new servers must “be able to run OSS operating systems” along with “30 percent of office infrastructure” such as e-mail, DNS and proxy servers . In schools, 20 per cent of computer labs will be required to run OSS applications.

In Australia, the Australian Government Information Management Office has also revealed it is preparing an open source procurement guide to assist its internal IT buyers to evaluate needs and systems before making purchasing decisions.

However, the Australian document will not be binding government policy and will allow users to make their own decisions in line with value for money and best practice.

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