Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed an order to switch the country’s governmental computer systems to open source inside four years. It appears the move is financially rather than politically motivated.
The plan has three deadlines:
By the third quarter of 2011, officials must settle on the data formats to be supported by the open source software used in government.
By the second quarter of 2012, officials must begin introducing free software in designated pilot locations. At the same time, there must be a central resource for departments and agencies to download the free software. The order says this model will be closer to a smartphone-style app store than the traditional Linux repository system, presumably to make it easier to use for the average government worker.
By the third quarter of 2014, government and fiscal institutions must completely switch to open source.
The move isn’t simply a case of saving money on license fees. Instead the idea is to also boost the domestic economy by creating more opportunities for local IT firms to develop software and offer support and management services.
Linux expert Glyn Moody notes that Russian officials have previously championed open source use, but struggled to get political backing. Putin’s order should certainly put an end to any opposition on that score.
The big loser, of course, is likely to be Microsoft. Last year it announced plans to invest $300 million in the Russian economy, with everything from giving software to school students and start-ups, to sponsoring the Winter Olympics.
It’s also been involved in controversy in the country, with supposed software piracy allegedly being used as a pretext for raids on political opposition groups. That led to Microsoft issuing a “unilateral” license to such groups, the idea being that the license will serve to instantly dismiss any question of copyright infringement.