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[ossig] Call for M'sian govt to rethink open source policy


MALAYSIA--A heated controversy surrounding the government's procurement
policy has surfaced in the country, as some industry players voice
dissatisfaction over a preference-based procurement policy that leans
toward open source.

Industry bodies including the Association of the Computer and Multimedia
Industry Malaysia (Pikom) and Computing Technology Industry Association
(CompTIA) are calling for the Malaysian government to review its
criteria for software purchases. 

Under the Malaysian Public Sector Open Source Software Masterplan, the
government has stated that its first choice in IT procurement are
infocomm technology solutions developed on the open-source platform. It
states that "in situations where advantages and disadvantages of
open-source software (OSS) and proprietary software are equal,
preference shall be given to OSS".

The Malaysian Administration Modernisation and Management Planning Unit
(Mampu) is responsible for spearheading the public sector's OSS

However, some industry consortiums have stepped out to voice their
concerns over this policy. 

"A procurement policy by the government should be based on merit,
transparency with clear evaluation criteria, fit for purpose, value for
money and interoperability." 
-- Peter Moore
Microsoft's general manager for public policy, Asia-Pacific and Greater

"CompTIA is advocating technical neutrality in government purchasing of
software assets," asserted Michael Mudd, director of public policy, Asia
Pacific, CompTIA. Backed by over 20,000 members, CompTIA is an
international information and communications technology trade
association. Its members consist of software developers, hardware
manufacturers, application service providers and commercial software
companies, including Microsoft and Novell. 

"Any product or service should be chosen for being the most suitable to
use," Mudd said. "Open standards, technical neutrality and
interoperability are far more important than the business model itself.
That's our view."

He added that software and hardware should be procured on their own
merits, and must not be excluded by "certain players" because of their
business models. 

"When you have wider choices, the charges will be lower," he said.
"There must be freedom of choice to buy what is most suitable for the
job. And every customer, government, and private sector should be
presented with an option."

Mudd said that the government should look to widen the participants in
the tender process so that the most appropriate technology is available
for selection.

Pikom Chairman Lee Boon Kok agrees. "When it comes to procurement,
consider all options in open source and proprietary software, all else
being equal," he said. More importantly, these ICT products should
conform to open standards to ensure interoperability between systems in
various agencies and departments, Lee added.

Software is a very complex issue, he said. The government's procurement
process should not only include bidding participants from both
open-source and proprietary software makers, it should also be clear.
The guiding principle should be inclusive and transparent, he stressed.

Lee, however, also underscored Pikom's support for open source as an
emerging trend and technology. In fact, the association has an Open
Source Special Interest Group (SIG) that champions the cause of the
open-source movement in this country, and has contributed significantly
to the development and adoption of OSS in Malaysia, he said.

While both parties support the government's OSS Masterplan, Lee and Mudd
noted that there must be some flexibility to adapt to future changes in
the industry. 

The proprietary viewpoint 

"Our views as represented by Pikom, are that the government should not
dictate which development model--OSS or commercial--should be the
preference for procurement," said Peter Moore, Microsoft's general
manager for public policy, Asia-Pacific and Greater China.

"A procurement policy by the government should be based on merit,
transparency with clear evaluation criteria, fit for purpose, value for
money and interoperability," he said.

Moore added that technology suppliers in the software industry should
have choice of development models so they are able to best meet the
needs of their customers, both in the domestic and international

V. R. Srivatsan, Oracle's Malaysia managing director, said there should
also be a clear mandate for agencies to hold OSS developers or
organizations to the same standards as those for commercial software
providers. The software vendor recently said it would enhance
interoperability between its products and OSS. 

Srivatsan said the government's evaluation criteria should include a
vendor's support capability and total cost of ownership, rather than
just acquisition costs, availability of skills, and legal and vendor
risks and liabilities.


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