Open-Source Dilemma for Governments

Consulting Times writes (in the US context):

To operate a local government requires approximately 200 separate software applications. These include programs running under the following functional areas: City Management Systems, Selective Public Information, Technical Databases, Emergency Systems, Criminal Justice and Courts, School Administration, Law Enforcement, Public Works, Social and Public Services, Capital Assets and Associated, Selective Public Information.

In areas such as finance, accounting and human resources Open Source Software can at present only provide a stable, low cost infrastructure on which ERP programs can run. Local governments in the suite spot of the market require ERP software like Oracle Financials, SAP, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Lawson and other proprietary systems. Those programs account for approximately half of a local government’s budget. No open source equivalents exist.

Additionally, of the approximately 200 applications needed by local governments, only 25 or so exist in the market. Of the remainder, local governments must write their own or hire a contract programming firm to create them. Every time a local government unit pays for a separate “build-to-suit” application, they waste the public’s money.

Open Source Software does not provide a total answer to all solutions needed in any enterprise. Open Source Software does not provide a cure-all and simply put it’s not a panacea. However, OSS provides an excellent model for collaborative development. In that case, university research departments and local government units can join together to obtain public financing and build the software needed using existing standards created by the multi-state working groups.

Indian engineering colleges need to take up the challenge of creating software applications for the government needs. This will be a win-win for everyone: for students, it will give them first-hand knowledge of real-world problems, and for the govenrment, it will create solutions for the paperwork problems. What’s needed is a few good people to co-ordinate this initiative.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.