For months the (South African) State IT Agency had winced at the incessant expense of buying software licences for hundreds of thousands of staff spread across government departments. Now the agency has declared that it will ditch expensive brand name software in many cases and switch to opensource alternatives.
The move should save at least R3bn a year, says agency chief information officer Mojalefa Moseki. The policy should also help to create a new generation of programmers skilled in developing their own applications.
“Government spends close to R3bn a year on software licences alone,” says Moseki. With support and upgrade costs added, the total bill was a punishing R9,4bn last year. “Barely a cent of that is spent in SA because all the companies like Microsoft, Sun, IBM and Lotus are multinationals, so the money goes abroad. SA is a consumer of software, but we can develop it ourselves.”
More governments need to do the same. They are the biggest spenders on technology, and can be the greatest beneficiaries in terms of cost savings. Besides, they can also a fillip to their domestic software industries.