Venezuela’s Government Shifts to Open Source Software

By Brian

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

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

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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