Philippines to push against government software piracy

The Philippines’ Commission on Information and Communication Technology (CICT) is intensifying its drive to reduce the use of unlicensed software in national government agencies (NGAs).

Tim Diaz de Rivera, CICT commissioner and National Computer Center (NCC) director general, told reporters that part of the commission’s thrust this year is to educate officials and employees of around 375 government agencies on the risks involved in using unlicensed software to discourage them from patronizing illegal software.

Part of the campaign is to inform NGAs of the various software packages or volume licenses available to government agencies. In this regard, the CICT will coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to furnish agencies with a list of vendor-initiated software packages. De Rivera said the CICT is also looking at including some widely used software brands in the list of “commonly-used supplies” which is readily available in the DBM Web site.

“Part of our campaign to reduce software piracy in government is to ensure that the IT budget is enough so agencies will not be tempted to buy illegal software (that is much cheaper),” said the NCC chief, who lamented that NGAs are having difficulty getting the funds needed to procure licensed software, which is why some agencies are tempted to buy the bootlegged versions.

The commission is likewise looking at proposing to the NGAs other pricing arrangements such as the “utility” or “pay-per-use model” to help them acquire legal software even with their limited budgets.

For the government-wide program, De Rivera said the CICT would be working more closely with the NGAs which have bigger software installations. Although the campaign will span the whole gamut of government, including local government units (LGUs), the focus this year will be on the NGAs, he added.

The CICT’s piracy education campaign complements the Business Software Alliance’s (BSA) bigger program, dubbed “Detox your PC to keep your business healthy,” that aims to educate Filipino software users on the benefits of using licensed software.

BSA is a global organization composed of the world’s biggest commercial software vendors. One of BSA’s main thrusts is to promote copyright protection through the use of licensed software.

BSA’s new campaign urges companies to keep their business “healthy” by conducting regular software audits and deleting unlicensed software installed in PCs. Tarun Sawney, BSA anti-piracy director for Asia, described unlicensed software as “toxins” that may adversely affect productivity and compromise security.

“We hope that through this campaign, companies get to realize the benefits of using original software. Also, we are reminding companies of the risks involved in using unlicensed software such as enforcement action by authorities resulting in costly downtime, hefty fines, and tarnished reputations,” Sawney said.

The association aims to reach out to, at least, 6,000 local organizations through an educational mass mailer which it will roll out soon. Also, the BSA has lined up a number of activities, including a Software Asset Management seminar, that will help local companies take full advantage of their IT investments.

Apart from promoting software copyright, the “Detox your PC” campaign aims to promote the growth of the local IT industry, Sawney said. A joint study conducted by BSA and IT research firm International Data Corporation (IDG) on global software piracy released last year indicated a piracy rate of 72 per cent in the Philippines in 2003. This translates to losses amounting to more than P3 billion.

The BSA chief explained that slashing the piracy rate would not only benefit individual software companies but also the entire software industry and, ultimately, the local economy. He cited a recent study conducted by the University of the Philippines that showed an increase in IT investments during periods when the software piracy level dropped.

“Software piracy in the Philippines continues to be a problem as it restrains the local industry from reaching its maximum potential. This campaign is a call to boost the local ICT industry through the use of licensed software,” Sawney said. “The country will stand to gain from increased investments, job creation and tax revenues if software piracy is reduced.”

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