Which is the Way forward to ‘Digital India’ is it OSS or CSS? Government of India is moving towards complete e-Governance, transforming the delivery of citizen-centric services by the use of technology under its popular project ‘Digital India’. In the same endeavor department of electronics and information technology (Deity) announced an open-source policy that makes it mandatory for all future applications and services to be designed using the open-source software (OSS). In case of an exception, where proprietary or closed-source software (CSS) is deployed, officials have to justify their decision.
This policy, announced during March-end is applicable to all government organizations under the central government. The policy states; "Under the overarching vision of Digital India, the government of India aims to make government services digitally accessible to citizens in their localities and to ensure efficiency, transparency and reliability of such services at affordable costs." The costing factor is an important one to notice as the government’s vision is to achieve efficiency with economy. It is a decision taken based on the costs involved in meeting the required capability, strategic control, scalability, security, life-time costs and support of the technology services.
However, this policy received mixed views from the industry. It was felt that: • The open-source policy may significantly narrow down the • opportunities for proprietary software companies. • The government needs to be technology-neutral, willing to adopt • the most economical and the most appropriate technology for the • problem at hand. • As it was a sweeping measure Government should have consulted • with the stake holders from the IT industry regarding the approach.
Department of electronics and information technology (Deity) reacted to the industry response and clarified its stand stating that: • The decision was made post consultations with all stakeholders, • including the industry through lobby group Nasscom. • The choice of OSS over CSS was due to the limitations CSS has over • copyright holding and confidentiality of source code. An open • source model typically does not have such limitations. • This will not narrow down the chances of a CSS due to the clause; • anything other than open source software has to be justified by the • official concerned. Hence, where ever required a CSS will be • adopted as per the discretion of the person in charge. • Governments of many countries including France, Norway, Brazil • and USA are encouraging the usage of OSS because it is cost • effective and reduces the dependency on the service provider. • Despite the clarification from Deity the industry, however, is of the view that the policy would detract departments from choosing closed software and this may contain meeting the project objectives.