Sunday, November 26, 2006
Monday, November 20, 2006
Philippine Computer Society's (PCS) position on House Bill 5769 - the Free Open Source Software (FOSS) Bill
- The Philippine Computer Society, composed of the country’s leading ICT professionals and practitioners from the business, academe and government sectors, believes strongly that both the government and the private sector should continue to have the freedom to choose either open source software or proprietary, commercial software. This is because the decision to choose one or the other -- or even both -- should be based on a careful assessment of the specific needs and objectives of an organization and not forced upon them by legal fiat;
- Both open source and commercial software have their corresponding merits and benefits that they bring to an organization's operations in terms of productivity, cost-effectiveness, mission-criticality, technical support, service level performance standards, and so on and so forth. The two kinds of software need not be mutually exclusive. In fact they can be used together in an integral and complimentary manner way, allowing a company access to the best of both worlds so to speak;
- By mandating the use of open source software, the government will effectively deprive itself and the public from making full and optimal use of software, which has become essential to a company’s viability and competitiveness. Organizations in both the public and private sectors would be forced to use software that does not exactly meet their needs but that they have to make do with because that would be as far as the law would allow. That would be tantamount to handicapping private companies in doing their business, rather than giving them the freedom and flexibility to survive and progress in an increasingly-competitive global business environment. It may also handicapped government agencies in delivering services to their respective constituencies. Moreover, billions of pesos have already been invested in the acquisition, training and use of contracted software. To mandate the use of open source would be tantamount also to throwing these investments down the drain, so to speak. Incidentally, Article III, Section 10 of the Philippine Constitution states that “No law curtailing the obligation of contracts shall be passed”. Since the license and use of proprietary, commercial software are covered by contracts, mandating the use of open source may be a violation of the aforementioned constitutional provision;
- The PCS is also not in favor of a certain provision in the bill declaring it unlawful for educational institutions to offer professional certification programs for proprietary software unless they also offer a similar certification program for FOSS. We believe that this is not only an encroachment on academic freedom – it adds additional burden and expense to schools that they may not be able to fulfill and may result in their closure. Longer-term, it could have the effect of reducing the number of schools offering such certification courses and limiting opportunities for Filipinos to take up certification programs that would assure them of guaranteed employment here or abroad;
- Passage of the FOSS Bill will also effectively isolate the Philippine ICT industry from the rest of the world where dynamic growth continues to take place precisely because an environment of freedom and competitiveness and protection for intellectual property rights exists in most other countries. At this time when the Philippines is finally making good economic progress, with ICT as one of its main drivers, the Philippines cannot afford to be put at a great disadvantage as the FOSS bill would surely do if passed into law;
- We strongly believe that Government policies should remain neutral and not show preference or bias towards certain operating and application systems over others. The government must protect freedom of choice and competition for it is through competition where innovation thrives and new, revolutionary products emerge.
In conclusion, the PCS is not against FOSS. On the contrary, the PCS is for encouraging organizations, government and private, to avail for themselves the best of both worlds. But what we cannot agree to is curtailing the freedom of organizations, including government agencies, government-owned and/or -controlled corporations, public elementary and high schools, and state colleges and universities, to decide for themselves the most appropriate and cost-effective software to utilize to address their needs. Thus, we pray that this freedom should not be taken away.
Friday, November 17, 2006
As the representative organization of the Philippine software industry, the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA) strongly opposes HOUSE BILL NO. 5769, the Free Open Source Software Act of 2006, as sponsored by House Representative Teodoro Casino.
As an industry association, we encourage the fostering of forward-thinking, innovation and creativity – necessary characteristics of a healthy software industry and essential pillars of the FLY HIGH 2010 software industry targets. This runs counter to the promotion of one technology platform or business model over another.
The companies comprising the Philippine software industry employ a diverse range of technology platforms – using both open source and proprietary software – running the entire gamut of functionalities and price-points. We believe that both users and developers of software should have the freedom of choice as to which technology can best address their unique business needs and requirements. In this sense, technology is only a tool and not an end in itself. As anyone running a business will attest, the point is never the tool itself but the business requirement it seeks to address.
To mandate the use of one technology platform over all others, without consideration of what best serves a specific business requirement, is short-sighted, myopic and a disservice to both users and developers of software – as well as to the Filipino people, whose best interests are compromised by limiting the technology options from which to choose to serve their requirements.
If government’s aim is to optimize the use of technology in the exercise of its agencies’ obligations to the public, then this objective is best met by observing the following:
- Government needs to spend more time defining its information system requirements and the evaluation criteria which will determine which solution and technology platform can best serve such requirements.
- Government’s procurement processes must be examined and modified to ensure a fair, transparent and rational technology selection process. This will lead to healthy competition among providers ensuring that government is able to choose the best and most appropriate solutions to meet its requirements.
- Government has no business or expertise mandating the use of one technology platform over the other. Government’s role is to partner with the private sector in providing the environment and business framework in which innovation, creativity and freedom of informed choice can thrive, especially in the area of technology which is characterized by dynamism and disruptive change.
Separately, the government should consider the role of the Philippine software industry as a generator of revenue and employment for the country. In 2005 alone, PSIA member firms accounted for over $200 million in earnings and 14,000 in employment. Our targets are to increase these numbers to $1 billion and 100,000 respectively by 2010. However, our achievement of these targets will be a function of our ability to offer the global market diverse, flexible and scaleable skill sets across various technology platforms. HOUSE BILL 5769 compromises this ability in several ways. Among them are:
- As a major user of IT, government has the opportunity, some will say – the responsibility, to jump start the creation of industry skills across these various platforms . By limiting government agencies to a technology platform, government prevents a level playing field in which various technology providers can compete and establish an experience and revenue base in the domestic market.
- As a supposed enabler of the local software industry, one of government’s roles should be to collaborate with the private sector and academe in ensuring that our educational institutions are able to prepare our graduates with the correct skill sets required by the market. In this context, imposing restrictions on what kind of training can be offered defies all logic and reason.
We urge the proponents of HOUSE BILL NO. 5769 to step back and reconsider the implications of their proposal. We should focus on common interests and not positions. Mandating a technology platform over all others is a position. Ensuring that government agencies and the Filipino people are able to optimize their technology choices in is an interest we all share.
PHILIPPINE SOFTWARE INDUSTRY ASSOCIATION
Sunday, November 12, 2006
As the Department of Trade and Industry takes an aggressive leadership on pushing for e-commerce developments in the country, there's much to share and report at E-Services Philippines 2007.