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Open Source adoption continues to be embraced in the Philippines
Open source solutions are increasingly obtaining preference across the globe. The reception of open source technologies has been very positive across Asia in the recent times, following the accelerated deployment of the same worldwide. It has steadily been gaining grounds across the globe and in Philippines, just like its Asian neighbors who are adopting the trend promptly. As individuals and organizations in Philippines are getting more technology-savvy, open source is gradually receiving a second glance either as an alternative or as complement to proprietary systems. Government entities in particular are beginning to take more than a second look at open source technology and even considering it as the primary option at times. Philippine-based software engineering services firms that promote widespread adoption of open source have been rampant and over the past decade, the adoption of open source technology has rapidly increased in the country – with the national government and many small-and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) turning to these solutions.
We have also witnessed a lot of entrepreneurs creating efficient business models in the field of open source, in recent times. Consumer perception and preferences for open source products have been on an upswing since such open source products have started becoming great models for collaboration and drivers of software entrepreneurship. Since most of these entrepreneurs succeed in creating software solutions powered by open source products particularly in the application space, more and more companies are now going the open source way.
In support of open source systems, the PH government has initiated a number of projects with special initiatives to assist Local Government Units (LGUs) in computerization and thereby to promote better and faster delivery of government services. One such project was to upgrade these LGUs’ capabilities in ICT using open source wherein they developed revenue-generating e-government application systems based on open source platforms. Besides development of these systems, the e-government applications component also involved development and hosting some of the LGU websites using open source web development tools. The government also decided to use open source software for their educational projects because of its cost-effectiveness relative to proprietary solutions. Simply put, inexpensive computer labs means more computer labs can be rolled out nationwide. The zero capital cost of using free open source software is a very attractive incentive for LGUs with limited budgets, those which aren’t able to afford the expensive proprietary technologies. The resources saved from software purchases are then allocated to increase the number of participants during training courses, extend data gathering activities or purchase more computing hardware.
However, although the government promotes the use of open source, it does not enforce government agencies to purely use open source systems. The policy has always been to let the marketplace decide the use of proprietary versus open source software. They just make sure that there exists a fair marketplace and that the consumer is fully informed of the available choices while the capabilities of these options determine and decide which platform will work best for their applications. The government promotes open source but what they are really promoting is that open source should be a choice and neither open source nor proprietary should be left out as an option. Both should be evaluated as potential options and the capabilities of these systems should determine and dictate the better option or a blend of the two options can be used, if distinct advantages are seen in each.
But although the adoption of open source technologies in the Philippines is increasing, it is moving at a slow pace. Many challenges are limiting its expansion and must be addressed to broaden its reach within the user community in the country. In tertiary education institutions, for example, there are no clear institutional guidelines in terms of open source software adoption and is often still faculty-driven. Proprietary vendors largely influence this situation through its offers of educational licenses. Many proprietary vendors donate computers and software in universities with the condition that the proprietary software is taught and included in the curriculum. This ensures that graduates are trained to use their software, thus increasing preference and thereby market share. Some thought in this area is required if open source is to become the popular and preferred choice.
In several government agencies, most of the accessible geospatial information is not readily available to local users. While the open source community is providing a wealth of geographic information in the form of developed software, education materials and geographic data, the information fails to reach most of its intended audience since communication and Internet infrastructure is very poor in many parts of the country. Many local government institutions are still ‘offline’. It is very difficult to provide support to these institutions. Innovative ways to support local users need to be developed that do not necessarily rely heavily on Internet availability.
Although, many local companies are either in the process of deploying open source systems or seriously looking into it, the prevalent practice seems to be to mix both proprietary and open source. Such a trend could primarily be due to several factors, which includes the perception that completely migrating to open source may be too complicated and to some extent risky for their business. While at the same time, these companies do realize the potential benefits and cost savings that open source systems offer and they want to be able to take advantage of the same. There possibly lies a large opportunity for open source if these concerns are effectively addressed.
Even though open source may have already inched beyond the infancy stage, considering how the local IT market is increasingly maturing, there are still some roadblocks for open source in reaching its full potential. There is no doubt however that the local market is slowly but steadily budding to evaluate the available technology options and knowing what works best for their respective needs. Open source is here to stay, grow and possibly (not) a long way to go as people learn to adapt and embrace it. As an advocate of open source with unequivocal passion for it, I can just hope that all crucial steps are taken in the right direction for it to flourish and gain dominance in the region and everywhere around the world. In other words, I’m staying open to the bigger picture!
Cha Mamuyac – Partner Account Manager at Ashnik, Philippines
Cha is Ashnik’s Partner Account Manager in the Philippines. Her key responsibilities includes managing partners as well as existing enterprise clients and building sales pipeline in the Philippines. She’s been involved in end to end IT projects for many enterprise companies in the Philippines. With more than 9 years of sales experience in managing customers across all industries especially in banking, insurance, micro-financing, retail, conglomerates, real estate, manufacturing and government she looks forward to continue generating new accounts to increase Ashnik’s presence and business in the Philippine territory.