Malaysian Government Saves Big with Open Source

Open Source in the public sector seemed to be all the rage in 2008, with government agencies all over Europe — not to mention agencies of the EU itself — adopting, and in many cases, mandating Open Source software and standards. Of course, Europe was not the only continent cozying up with a copy of the source code — governments in Africa, Asia, North & South America, and all over the South Pacific were exploring and implementing Open Source in 2008. Now, one of those governments has revealed the savings-side of OSS, and the numbers they're tossing around are pretty nice.

The results of OSS implementation go far beyond dollars saved — fewer constraints on technical staff, elimination of red tape and delays in procurement, ease in customizing applications — but it is often the cold, hard cash at the bottom line that sticks in the mind. For the government of Malaysia, which embarked upon its Malaysian Public Sector OSS Master Plan in 2004, the transition has apparently paid off. According to the Open Source Competency Center (OSSC) of the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) — Malaysia's primary governing body — to-date, Malaysia has saved RM40 million (about $11.2 million) in licensing fees [PDF] by implementing Open Source software. Of that RM40 million, more than RM12 million ($3.4 million) has been saved through the use of OpenOffice, which is installed on more than 12,760 government systems. More than RM5 million ($1.4 million) has been saved by the Ministry of Health, nearly six times that of any other agency's disclosed savings.

These savings, which do not include savings in deployment costs, support costs, employee training, or any of the other aspects above and beyond the actual cost of proprietary software software, represent a significant savings for the nation. With an official population of 24,821,286, the savings comes to RM1.61 ($0.45) per resident — if the same savings-per-person were achieved in the United States, the total savings would amount to more than $137 million dollars.

2009 is shaping up to be another banner year for Open Source — not fifteen days into the new year, the government of Vietnam has mandated Open Source for all government workers — local and federal — by 2010, and Open Source on all government servers by the end of June. One can only hope that as more governments reveal savings like those in Malaysia, more and more public officials will realize the vast amounts of money being spent needlessly on proprietary software.

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