Philippines government goes full blast with Linux

The Philippine government is intensifying its efforts to promote the use of the open-source operating system Linux among its agencies, local government units (LGUs), academic institutions and small to medium businesses (SMBs).

The Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI), the government’s primary research and development arm, made the announcement as it launched Version 2 of its own Linux distribution called Bayanihan Linux.

First launched in July last year, Bayanihan Linux was developed by ASTI as a lower-cost alternative software solution to commercially available operating systems, particularly Microsoft Corp.’s Windows.

“We’re going all-out for Linux. We’re approaching schools, universities, local government units, and those who are very open to an alternative solution,” said Delfin Jay Sabido IX, ASTI’s director.

He added that some government department offices have also approached them signifying their interests in installing Bayanihan Linux. Two foreign embassies of countries in Europe and North America have expressed interests in ASTI’s Linux distribution as well.

In a survey of 60 agencies last year, some 31 agencies were found to be already using Linux for certain applications. The National Computer Center (NCC), the government IT implementation body, conducted another survey late last year but the results have not yet been tabulated.

It is expected, however, that more government and academic institutions have started installing Linux in their own respective computer networks. The NCC last year initiated a computerization project for LGUs where the agency offered free software solutions based on the Linux operating system and other open-source software.

Sabido said ASTI would intensify its promotion of Linux as a more cost-effective alternative solution to higher-priced commercial software.

He claimed that one of the problems that they commonly encounter when promoting Linux is the resistance of users to shift away from the more popular Microsoft Windows operating system.

“The problem is that many people don’t know that there is an alternative solution, especially when we go to the provinces,” Sabido said. “(When they go for commercial software), it’s either because they have the money to spend or they allow their technical people to use pirated copies of software.”

Sabido believes that the funds used to buy commercial software could be used for other purposes. Linux is not only a lower cost alternative solution, it also provides most of the necessary functionalities and applications offered by commercial software.

Aside from the Macintosh OS X.2, Bayanihan Linux v2 is the only other operating system that integrates Bluetooth support. ASTI had originally planned on coming out with a commercial product using the Bluetooth protocol application stack, a type of middleware software, but decided to integrate it with the Bayanihan Linux distribution for free to allow more people to have access to it and encourage application development on Bluetooth.

The latest version of Bayanihan Linux is based on the Red Hat Version 8.0 distribution. ASTI is selling the CD with a manual for 250 pesos (US$4.65), while a CD without the manual costs 120 pesos. The software, however, can be downloaded for free from the Bayanihan Web site.

Peter Banzon, ASTI’s computer science division head, explained that the fee they collect from the sale of the Bayanihan Linux installation CD is intended to cover the cost of the distribution media and the printing of the CD box case.