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By Clarice Africa | 28 April 2014

“Look around you - open source is running so many things that play a crucial part of our lives and I bet most people don’t even know it,” said Prof. Ariel Betan, Managing Director of the International Open Source Network ASEAN+3, a Centre of Excellence under the UNDP Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme that advocates free and open source software, open content and open standards in the region.

“Linux, for example, is an operating system that runs a lot of today’s open source technologies. From small devices like mobile Wi-Fi routers/access points, desktops, smartphones and even appliances to large installations like the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, spanning 27km in the the Franco-Swiss Border,” he said.

“Whether you’re aware of it or not, Linux is practically everywhere. It’s invisible, yet ubiquitous.”

And unlike today’s big software companies, no organisation can claim ownership of Linux because its development is mainly driven by a huge following of open and like-minded developer communities.

While open source means different things to different people, for long time advocates like Prof. Betan, open source is an engagement and empowerment tool that allows organisations to leverage the creativity of open source communities to achieve sustainable innovation.

“With its inherent nature of free and open, open source goes hand in hand with the goals of today’s open government revolution and we’re seeing more and more government agencies and healthcare organisations using open source to support their various mission-critical applications.”

“They have found out that it’s more stable, reliable, secure and interoperable. Due to the open and inclusive nature of open source technologies, different systems can work together unlike proprietary and closed source technologies where they have no choice but to use only what is allowed by proprietary systems.”

Furthermore, considering the government’s limited resources and budget, open source offers a more economical option due to its lower cost of implementation and its alternative business models.

“Open source provides governments with a better deal for taxpayers’ money. It allows them to optimise their IT spend, especially from an IT infrastructure perspective. By using open source, they can easily migrate to other technologies or vendors if they are not satisfied, unlike in closed source software where users have no choice but to continue using it even if it’s not meeting their requirements,” Prof. Betan said.

“Can governments really run everything on open source? Definitely! In fact, you can find an open source alternative for every closed source system. And that is why we are seeing more and more governments in the region migrating to open source.”