Open Source Software – UPSC GS3

Government announced an open-source policy that  makes it mandatory for all future applications and services to be  designed using the open-source software (OSS).

Open Source Software (OSS) is a term referring to the software programs whose source code is publicly available and the copyright holder allows anyone to study and modify the source code. Thus it is a collaborative method wherein the future users can easily become co-developers. Examples are Linux operating system, Android, etc. The government recently announced the policy for mandatory usage of OSS for central government offices to develop any applications and services. Such a policy has wide implications on all stakeholders namely the government, technology companies or suppliers and the public.
Benefits of OSS:
  1. Open source code is meant to be a collaborative effort where programmers improve upon the source code and make the benefits available to the community.
  2. The Open source model is based on a more decentralized model of production, thus helps in reducing the monopoly of large commercial firms which are primarily centralized model of production for revenue maximization
  3. OSS will help in reducing government’s cost of procurement of commercial software’s.
  4. OSS can be modified and customised to suit spatial and temporal diversities.
  5. Many developers can contribute to customize it. Thus it is more participatory
  6. If software is open source, it can be easily adapted to the changing needs by making incremental changes rather than building a new software from scratch.
  7. Due to reduced costs, more social expenditure can be done but workforce needs to be trained for handling OSS with technicalities.
  8. Use of OSS will make government functioning more transparent.
  9. Thus, gives boost to digital India programme
For technology companies, this is a not so welcome step as they are suppliers of Closed Source Software’s or Proprietary tools. Hence, they stand to lose a share of their  revenues. India is growing market and still in nascent stage. The government policy mandates the justification for using Closed Source Software if used in preference to OSS, this feature is troubling for the suppliers. CSS is proprietary product and profit maximization provided the incentive for its development. That will be reduced.
Citizens will get better services as the quality would have been customised by many developers. But there are safety concerns as OSS are more prone to data thefts and attacks. We are already under much threat and our cyber laws framework is still evolving. So safety breach is a big concern. Besides, the policy is mandatory for central government offices and recommended for states.
So the step is in the right direction and we should strike a balance between OSS and CSS on a case-to-case basis.
What do you understand by open-source software? Examine its benefits and also highlight effect of India’s Open Source policy on various stakeholders. (200 Words)



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