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Brazil Mandates Shift to Free Software: News and Response

Jun 13, 2003, 16:00 (36 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Gonzalo Porcel, Gabinete De Prensa, Tony Stanco)

PCLinuxOnline/HispaLinux: The Brazilian Public Sector to Choose Free Software

"Rio de Janeiro, 2 June (EFE) The Brazilian government plans to migrate from Windows to Linux 80% of all computers in state institutions and state-owned businesses, informed the daily newspaper 'Valor.' This will be a gradual migration, that will begin with a pilot project in one ministry and which will be completed over a period of three years, according to official sources cited by the financial daily.

"The goal of the migration is to save money by finding alternatives to expensive proprietary licenses. Highlighting the gradual phase-in approach that the Brazilian government has adopted, Sergio Amadeu de Silveira, the president of the National Institute of Information Technology, stated that 'We are not just going to do a hasty migration.' He proceeded to say that 'our main concern is the security and the trust of our citizens. The biggest resistance to any change comes from the existing cultural inertia...'"

Complete Story

Original Story (in Spanish)

Stanco: Opinion on Brazil Making Open Source Mandatory in Government

By Tony Stanco
Founding Director
The Center of Open Source & Government

According to the report [linked above], Brazil is making Open Source mandatory for 80% of all computers in state institutions and businesses, setting up a "Chamber for the Implementation of Software Libre."

While I think that Open Source in government is a good thing and have been working towards that goal for many years, making it mandatory is an industrial policy that may not succeed, which will hurt Open Source in the long run.

It is much better for governments to set up a real level playing field in procurement policy and then let the market decide on merit. If a product can't make it in the market without government mandates, then history has shown that it won't make it with government mandates either. Brazil would have been better off to have a policy to buy the best software for its technical needs, whether it is Open Source or proprietary. In my opinion, Open Source would succeed on the merits in most cases without the market distortions that government preference programs cause. Ironically, if Brazil buys Open Source just because it is Open Source rather than the best product, their citizens will likely suffer long term.

If governments want to create a culture of Open Source in their country to create an indigenous software industry (a noble goal), they are much better off working in the area of Education Policy, rather than Procurement Policy. To use a sports metaphor, Procurement Policy should be a race where the best win, so it needs to be a scrupulously fair competition for all. Whereas Education Policy is the practice and training exercises for the big race. Using Procurement Policy for Open Source, ensures that Open Source wins because they "knee cap" the competition, a morally unsatisfying "win." Using Education Policy for Open Source ensures that Open Source wins because it produces the best developers and software product.

Brazil should reconsider its strategy.

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