Leveraging open source communication technologies (ICT) by governments of developing countries

Every government, whether a developing nation or a developed nation, wants to transform and improve its various functions by the use of technology. Embracing new technology enables governments to deliver services across the country in a much efficient and effective manner. It also enhances the satisfaction of the citizens over the government.

However, embracing technology has two important factors to consider by every government. First that how much impact it makes on the existing SOPs (Standard Operating procedures) and how to train existing human resources to use new technology. Second and the important factor is the cost associated with using technology-based solutions. This is a significant factor if we consider the financial constraints on the governments of the developing countries. Many proprietary software solutions are simply not affordable by governments.

So what is the solution then? Use open-source!. Free and Open-source software has immense potential to be used by the governments for effective delivery of services to its citizens. Examples of the governments using open-source are already there. The Whitehouse website has been moved to the open-source Drupal content management system. Similarly, in Germany, the city of Munich saved millions of Euros by successfully migrating to Linux operating system. There are many other success stories mentioned above.

While using open source technology for service delivery at a reduced cost, the aim should always be about bridging the gap between services and citizens. But unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for developing countries as such. Even basic requirements such as water, electricity, and health services are not provided equally to all citizens. Open source ICT can provide such platforms where all the people of the society have equal opportunities and access to government resources. For example, in case of an emergency such as an accident or a woman giving childbirth, if doctors are not available in the remote areas of the country, online services over the mobile phone could provide expert opinion on the situation at hand, instruct the first aid and locate the nearest hospital.

Free and open-source software provides governments with the flexibility to utilize the technology at whatever time or in whatever way they want. It provides speedier options to develop and adapt to the constantly changing demands of the citizens. It also provides the opportunity to reduce costs and build new capacity and skills.