Last year I read about “free and open source software” (FOSS) through the newspapers and I learned that it was the “big thing” in some countries of Europe, in North and South America and in Asia where it is used extensively. I begun to study on my own about FOSS by surfing the Internet and finally found the freedom to use my home PC again by installing the equally user-friendly Ubuntu Linux 6.06 operating system, in which a free live CD installer was shipped to me free of charge courtesy of Canonical Ltd. As for the office applications (word documents, spreadsheets, presentations, etc.), I downloaded and installed OpenOffice 2.1 in my home, where documents produced are lighter in size, and I installed and used it extensively and that of AbiWord 2.4 (another open source word document application) in my workplace in lieu of a pre-installed proprietary office application software, of whose documents eat up so much disk space. As for my browsers, I use either Mozilla Firefox and Opera and found it to be much more stable, faster and safer than using a common pre-installed browser.
However, FOSS is still unknown to most Filipinos, especially to Cebuanos, and those who do are afraid to make the change or uncertain about its benefits? One great advantage about FOSS is cost. My migration from an expensive licensed software to GNU/Linux costs me nothing, except for the fifteen pesos (Php15.00) I spent by seating myself inside an Internet cafe for an hour to access the site of Ubuntu.org and ten pesos (Php10.00) for a blank CD to access, download and copy OpenOffice, Mozilla Firefox and Opera.
I benefited myself so much by using FOSS. How much more would the government do, and the business sector, as well, and save those much-needed foreign exchange that are made to be spent to import those proprietary softwares? INTEL, a giant chip maker, reported a savings of over US$200 million by switching their servers from proprietary software to that of GNU/Linux while AMAZON reported a savings of US$17 million and beyond for migrating to GNU/Linux. DELL, a PC maker now market their desktops with pre-installed Ubuntu Linux operating systems at a much lower price than what they sold one having a pre-installed licensed software.
The New York Stock Exchange benefited much by migrating from proprietary mainframe software to that of Hewlett-Packard's AIX and of GNU/Linux operating systems by estimating their savings of about 35% to 65% and that “cost, cost and cost” has been the bottomline for that change of heart. I heard that the Vatican uses FOSS now and in Kerala state in India, the use of FOSS in public schools and offices became mandatory due to the great savings incurred by switching sides. Many organizations and several studies have shown that using FOSS in lieu of proprietary software results in significant cost savings of anywhere from 15% to 35% not only due to lower licensing costs but lower personnel and hardware costs.
Another great advantage in using FOSS is its flexibility (and so development-friendly!) as its source codes - their DNA – can be accessed by users/consumers/developers/programmers who may opt to study, modify or customize the software according to their tastes and requirements. Because of this, the Advanced Science and Technology Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (ASTI-DOST) has developed the Bayanihan Linux 4, a complete open source-based desktop solution for office and school use, and Bayanihan Linux Server 2006, an easy-to-use Linux server for government agencies, schools and SMEs. These Bayanihan Linux programs can do everything that a licensed (and expensive!) proprietary operating system can do, except drain one’s pockets. In the first place, Bayanihan Linux is free.
Another FOSS advantage is its interoperability. It can adapt to existing open standards and can work across different platforms and protocols.
And finally, FOSS is safe. The opening of the source codes and the use of open standards have allowed hundreds of thousands of users around the globe to serve as a virtual research and development team, providing patches and solutions to bugs and glitches in real time over the Internet.
A study produced by the International Open Source Network (IOSN) and United Nations Development Program-Asia Pacific Development Information Programme (UNDP-APDIP) have identified the following strategic benefits of FOSS: (1) Developing local capacity/industry; (2) Reducing imports/conserving foreign exchange; (3) Enhancing national security; (4) Reducing copyright infringements; and (5) Enabling localization.
The study also identified economic benefits as: (1) Increasing competition; (2) Reducing total cost of ownership; (3) Enhancing security; and (4) Achieving vendor independence.
Add to this the social benefit of increasing access to information.
As we slowly catch up with the rest of the world about using FOSS, the Honorable Teodoro Casiño of Bayan Muna party list, sponsored House Bill 5769, entitled the “FOSS Act of 2006”, in the Lower House of Congress. This bill will promote the development and usage of FOSS in the Philippines, particularly in the preference in procurement of ICT services and goods for government offices and schools favoring that of local open source developers and vendors and establishing for the implementation of school curriculum for students and teachers training in the use and development of FOSS in all levels of education; amending R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the “Intellectual Property Code of the Philippines”; providing penalties thereof and for other purposes. This is the right step in the right direction.
A breathe of fresh air.