Indonesian government criticised for preferring “open source” software

An Indonesian government policy endorsing the use of open source software (OSS) within government organisations “weakens the software industry”, according to the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA).  IIPA says that the endorsement undermines the long-term competitiveness of the proprietary software industry “by creating an artificial preference for companies offering open source software and related services”.

The IIPA’s position came to light in a recent submission to the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR), which solicits information from the public as part of its annual “Special 301” review of the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights by US trading partners.  Following the review, the USTR updates its “watch list” and “priority watch list” of countries with IP regimes having aspects it deems unfavourable to US interests.  The IIPA recommended that Indonesia (among others) should remain on the priority watch list, partly as a result of its perceived attitude towards OSS (but primarily due to the high level of piracy, particularly in business software and recorded music).

Describing OSS as a “low-cost” alternative, Indonesia’s Minister of Communications and Information said last year that Indonesia’s foreign reserves have been depleted by spending large sums on proprietary software from “foreign vendors”.  In addition to lowering government spending, reducing software copyright violations is also a stated objective of the policy (which is a goal the IIPA says “it has no issue with”).

The Indonesian government’s preference for OSS provides an interesting contrast to the neutral stance taken by the federal government of Australia (and many other governments, such as the UK government).  In A Guide to Open Source Software for Australian Government Agencies, federal government agencies are advised to evaluate open source systems “according to the same metrics and decision-making processes” as for proprietary software, with the primary considerations being fitness for purpose and value for money.  Among the factors to be considered are licence fees (which usually do not apply to OSS) and other upfront costs, stability of the software, its levels of maturity and adoption, and the cost and availability of support options.

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