Open source software ignored by state agencies

VietNamNet Bridge – Closed-source software products, mostly Microsoft’s, have been dominating Vietnam’s software market, despite the government’s encouragement to develop and use open-source software.

Vietnam, open source software, state agencies, national program

Most of the computers at state agencies in Vietnam have been running on Windows operating system. In most cases, they use open source software only if they have financial difficulties. If they get money from the state, they use it to buy closed source software.

In fact, many open source software products have been deployed at state agencies since 2001, when the government-initiated Program No 112 on computerizing the state’s administration kicked off.

At that time, six out of seven companies which offered basic services, such as e-mail systems and digital signature certification, used open source software.

However, as Program No 112 has been suspended, the open source software systems have no more money to continue their existence. Therefore, agencies, institutions, businesses were told to shift to use closed source software.

The issue about whether to use closed or open source software has been discussed at many conferences and seminars. However, relevant agencies could not decide which one to use – open or closed source software.

In March 2004, the Prime Minister released a decision on stepping up the utilization of open source software in Vietnam.  However, no action was taken to implement the decision, and the policy only exists on paper.

In the following years, closed source software products, mostly Microsoft’s, dominated the Vietnamese software market.

In May 2007, local newspapers quoted sources as reporting that the government signed a contract with Microsoft to buy 300,000 licenses to use Microsoft Office (MSO). The sum of money for the deal was kept secret, but the sources said the deal was worth $20 million, or VND400 billion.

The move then faced strong opposition from analysts and experts who believed that it was unreasonable to spend so much money on Microsoft’s software copyright, and they recommended that Vietnam should pay more attention to develop open source software.

The Vietnamese open source software community, once again, regained its hope, when the Ministry of Information and Communication in December 2008 released Instruction No 07 on utilization of open source software at state agencies.

However, the ministry, in its report in December 2012, admitted that most of the targets set up in the instruction could not be attained because of a lack of money.

As a result, state agencies have fallen into a dilemma. While they don’t have money to develop open source software, they still have to spend money to buy closed source software, or they will be charged with copyright infringement by agencies.

Nguyen The Hung, CEO of VINADES, an open source software development joint stock company, said firms like VINADES feel discouraged to approach state agencies.

“The state agencies’ doors are always closed to open source software,” he commented, “even though open source software products are better and more effective”.

“NukViet, for example, was a good app used widely at many state agencies and organizations. However, when the agencies got money from the state, they decided to buy closed source software instead of upgrading to open source software,” he said.

Buu Dien

Vietnam, open source software, state agencies, national program