The Thiruvananthapuram-based International Centre for Free and Open Source Software (ICFOSS), an autonomous organisation under the government of Kerala, is joining hands with the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Bangalore, for a joint study on the use of Free and Open Source Software in e-governance in Kerala, Karnataka, Bihar and UP.

The study will bring out the extent of use of FOSS in government projects in these States and attempt to assess the economics of the FOSS approach.

The study is being supported by the IIM Bangalore, which is focussed on research, consulting, teaching and training efforts on management issues concerning multiple industries, including the Indian and global software industry.

“While FOSS provides a viable, robust and cost-effective alternative to e-governance projects, there is still wide variation between different States of the country in the deployment of FOSS. While States such as Kerala lead the nation in FOSS adoption, many others are lagging behind due to various reasons,” said Rahul Dé, Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor in Information and Communication Technology for Sustainable Economic Development, IIM Bangalore, who is the lead researcher of the joint study.

“The joint study with ICFOSS builds on a similar work that was carried out several years back. It seeks to update the status and will be of great use to State and Central governments in their choice of software strategy. With the 2012 Government of India software policy providing explicit support for FOSS, it becomes imperative for e-government applications to consider the option,” a press note quoting Prof. Dé said.

An earlier study in 2009 by the IIM Bangalore on the economic impact of FOSS had found abundant potential for financial savings for governments, by switching to FOSS.

Besides the financial advantage, FOSS has several other benefits such as liberal user licences, freedom to localise and customise software, and community support. “A key step in mainstreaming FOSS is its promotion for use in governments. While the economic benefits of FOSS are well-known, the lesser-known features such as avoidance of vendor lock-in, security and safety, and robustness and scalability make it uniquely placed to meet the stringent requirements of governments. This has been proven by numerous applications,” Satish Babu, Director, ICFOSS, said in the press note.