Thursday, March 29, 2007

Cuba and Venezuela Adopt Open Source

Cuba and Venezuela have joined a growing list of nations concerned about the tight relationship between Microsoft and the United States intelligence establishment. Both countries are considering moving to open source for public and government computers in an effort to save money and bolster national security.

From iTWire:
Given the ongoing hostility between Cuba and the US, you can see why the Cuban government might have been concerned to hear that Microsoft had some help from the NSA with Vista's security features. At least with open source software you can review the code.


It makes a lot of sense for Cuba to avoid commercially imported software. Apart from the cost factor, using open source provides its government with a way of further nurturing local development expertise that's not possible where COTS (commercial off the shelf) dominates.1
And from the Guardian (Australia):
Both governments say they are trying to wean state agencies from Microsoft Windows to the open-source Linux operating system, which is developed by a global community of programmers who freely share their code.

"It’s basically a problem of technological sovereignty, a problem of ideology", said Hector Rodriguez, who oversees a Cuban university department of 1,000 students dedicated to developing open-source programs.


Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes raised suspicions about Microsoft’s cooperation with US military and intelligence agencies.

He called the world’s information systems a "battlefield" where Cuba is fighting against imperialism. Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates once described copyright reformers, including people who want to do away with proprietary software, as "some new modern-day sort of communists" — a badge of honour from the Cuban perspective.


Cuba’s Cabinet also has urged a shift from proprietary software. The customs service has gone to Linux and the ministries of culture, higher education and communications are planning to do so, Rodriguez said. Students in his own department are cooking up a version of Linux called Nova.

Rodriguez’s department accounts for 1,000 of the 10,000 students within the University of Information Sciences, a five-year-old school that tries to combine software development with education. Cuba is also training tens of thousands of other software and hardware engineers across the country.


"Two years ago, the Cuban free-software community did not number more than 600 people ... In the last two years, that number has gone well beyond 3,000 users of free software and it’s a figure that is growing exponentially."2

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