Philippine government Linux initiative put on hold

A government plan to push the standard use of open source software in all government offices has been put on hold following an order to review the plan from the newly-installed head of the National Computer Center (NCC).

Ibarra Gonzales, newly-appointed director general of the NCC, the government’s IT implementing arm, said he will not endorse the plan unless a study has been completed on the merits of open source software, particularly Linux and Linux-based applications.

The use of Linux as a standard for government agencies and academic institutions was a brainchild of former NCC head Delfin Jay Sabido IX, who resigned from the agency in November last year to concentrate on his responsibilities as director of the Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), the government research and development arm.

In an interview with Computerworld Philippines, Gonzales said he has already commissioned the NCC Standards Division to come up with a white paper on Linux so that the centre can be guided in the drafting of an official policy on open source and Linux.

Gonzales explained that he will not offer a position on Linux unless he sees the results of the white paper, which is expected to be finished next month.

“I’ve already commissioned the Standards Division to make sure there is a white paper to outline precisely what kind of direction we should take,” he said. “This is to ensure that our judgement is based on information and facts.” Although Gonzales admitted that the plan for government to standardize on Linux may have been based on Sabido’s own evaluation, he insisted that a formal study be conducted first before any decision on the plan is made.

“The former DG (director general) has leaned towards open source because of his own evaluation of it as cost-effective and as more flexible compared to proprietary software,” he said. However, without the benefit of a white paper that shows the merits of open source and Linux, the NCC will not push for government standardization on Linux, not even as an alternative solution, he explained.

“(Linux) as an alternative? Not until I have a better result from the commission I asked (which) should be ready within a month,” Gonzales said.

Sabido, who served as NCC head from 2001 up to late last year, wanted the government to standardize on Linux and use open source software because of their lower costs compared to those of commercial applications.

In a computerization program aimed at local government units (LGUs), the NCC was offering free Linux-based applications to LGUs that were interested. These applications included software for office applications and tax management, among others.

During the launch of ASTI’s Bayanihan Linux, a locally-developed Linux distribution based on Red Hat Inc. Linux, Sabido said ASTI was “going all out” in promoting Linux as an alternative solution for government agencies, academic institutions and small to medium businesses.

In a survey of 60 agencies last year, some 31 agencies were already using Linux for certain applications.