Govt OS policy boosts industry

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 02 Nov 2007

Although the local open source market is still in the early stages, government`s recent decision to adopt a free and open source software (FOSS) policy is a significant boost for the industry.

This is according to Frost & Sullivan`s new analysis, "South African Open Source Software Market".

The consulting company`s findings reveal that both the public and private sectors will benefit from the expansion of OSS. It states the resultant cost savings will encourage new businesses and allow the government to channel resources to areas such as healthcare and education.

"OSS provides SA with an alternative to the costly applications of proprietary software vendors," says the company`s industry analyst Lindsey McDonald.

"The government`s adoption of the FOSS policy is a major driver for this market, as OSS will be used at all levels of the government where it is comparable to or more suitable than proprietary software."

She notes OSS enables users to customise applications according to their use. McDonald explains that the high level of collaboration among OSS developers and the government policy should serve to further increase collaboration in this market. This will result in the development of applications suited specifically to the local environment, she adds.

However, McDonald says a general lack of awareness is threatening the extensive use of OSS.

"Many potential users are not aware of the benefits or capabilities of OSS," she adds. "These include the potential to customise it for any purpose and the availability of the source code to all users. Additionally, there is a perceived lack of support for OSS software."

Although this is the case in certain instances, she says an increasing number of businesses are offering OSS support and customisation services.

Market participants must challenge the perception that OSS is only for technology enthusiasts. Focusing on the strengths of OSS, rather than the alleged weaknesses of proprietary software, would be a positive manner in which to promote the use of OSS, she explains. This includes paying more attention to the practical benefits of OSS.