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Venezuela's Government Shifts to Open Source Software

Aug 30, 2002, 16:00 (91 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

According to government sources in Venezuela, the South American nation has announced an official policy that exclusively calls for the use of open source software in that government.

The announcement, made on Wednesday, stated that from now on, all software developed for the government must be licenced under the GPL. The entire policy was summed up in this statement by Dr. Felipe Pérez-Martí, Planning and Development Minister: "Open source whenever possible, propietary software only when necesary."

José Luis Rey, one of Pérez-Martí's advisors, indicated that before the announcement was made, the country's Executive Committee was consulted and the majority of the menbers of that committee were in favor of the plan.

Rey also outlined additional details of the plan. Besides the government's GPL requirement, the policy requires that the official accounting application for Venezeula must be a GPL'ed application. The policy also states that the government will openly combat software piracy by purging all unlicensed copies of software from its offices.

Additionally, the policy also outlines a new Internet access program where all machines would be Linux-based and held under community franchise.

Pérez-Martí has been described by various South American media outlets as an economist who has been interested in open source for quite some time.

At the LinuxWeek 2000 conference, Pérez-Martí presented a paper about free software sustainability entitled: "On Altruism, Efficiency and Public Goods, Application: GNU/Linux Environment"

Pérez-Martí has also surrounded himself with a great wealth of technical advisors, including Ricardo Ricardo Strusberg, former president of the Venezulean Linux Users Group (VELUG) and current president of the Association of Linux Users of Latin America and Spain and Jose Neif, the Mexican programmer who is best known for the LinuxPPP distribution. These advisors were clearly influential in reaching this new policy decision.

Ernesto Hernández-Novich, current president of VELUG, and a part-time advisor to Pérez-Martí, welcomes the new policy whole-heartedly. He also outlined some of the bumps the policymakers are working to smooth over.

"This of course, requires additional considerations that are being carefully written by [Pérez-Martí's] advisors in terms of the use of a freely available standard format to exchange information, ease of transformation of this information without needing propietary software, and the need to make free (as in GPL-compatible) all software funded by the Government."

In an interview (in Spanish) with LaRed.com, Pérez-Martí outlined one of the big reasons why this policy was announced. According to Pérez-Martí, the government and the people of Venezeula were increasingly concerned that over 75 percent of the funds for software licenses went to foreign nations, 20 percent to foreign support agencies, and only 5 percent to Venezuelan programmers.

Pérez-Martí indicated that they wish to implement this new policy so that now Venezulan programmers will be handling most of the government's software needs, though keeping a large amount of government funds within the nation itself.

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