A bill mandating the government to use free/open source software (FOSS) has been filed at the House of Representatives. Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño said the use of FOSS will help the government save from its spending on computer software and licenses.
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, principal author of House Bill No. 1716 or the Free/Open Source Software Act, said the use of free/open software (FOSS) will help the government save from 15 to as much as 70 percent from its spending on computer software and licenses.
He said that while there is no existing inventory on government expenditures on software, businesses using FOSS are able to save 15 to 35 percent. He said these businesses spend for migration, training of technicians and users. “Savings can actually be more than that, it could reach as much as 70 to 80 percent,” said Casiño.
The bill mandates government to use FOSS except in cases where there are no equivalent software available.
He said that the House of Representatives’ database and website are open source. He said it was by necessity because they lack budget. Some local government units also use FOSS, he said.
Casiño said that FOSS is inter-operable meaning it can work across many platforms and systems.
FOSS equivalents for such expensive programs like Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office are readily available and downloadable for free over the Internet.
“The era of expensive software with oppressive license and patent restrictions are over. We are now entering a world where software itself is free and users pay only for the services of creating or modifying such software,” Casiño said.
He said FOSS is also development-friendly. “Users may customize certain features and programs without infringing on any copyright or license,” said Casiño.
Unlike propriety software, Casiño said that source codes of FOSS are accessible to the users and not restrained to the manufacturer.
The legislator also said that FOSS is less vulnerable to viruses. Because source codes are accessible, millions of users can find solutions. In propriety software, only the manufacturers can ‘cure’ the viruses,” he explained.
Casiño’s office, in cooperation with the House Committees on Information and Communications Technology and on Trade and Industry, sponsored a week-long exhibit of FOSS at the North Wing Lobby of the House of Representatives, Sept. 15-18.
FOSS users provided trainings for students and staff members of legislators.
Local IT industry
Casiño said that the use of FOSS by the business sector can spur the local information technology (IT) industry.
Under the FOSS business model, companies make money not by selling copies of their software but by creating, customizing and maintaining such products for specific users who are free to modify, copy or redistribute the software subject to very liberal copyright terms.
“In such a model, there would be no motive to ‘pirate’ software because everyone can copy and give away software to anyone. Instead, what will be encouraged will be the growth of companies who can modify, customize and maintain software and computer systems depending on a client’s needs,” Casiño said.
He said that while there are already companies using FOSS in the country, their clients are mainly from other countries.
Casiño is hopeful the bill will be passed. Their biggest obstacle, he said, is lack of information. His office has organized exhibits and discussions in schools.
He said that the Philippine Software Industry Alliance has expressed opposition to the bill, specifically the provision mandating government offices to use FOSS. The group, he said, also oppose the provision mandating schools to offer courses on FOSS.
“Government is a user. If the government wants to use FOSS, it is a choice. Besides, the bill does not prohibit the use of propriety software,” Casiño asserted. Bulatlat