Importance of Open Source Software for better E-Governance
Open Source Software
Open source software is computer software. It is very often developed in a public, collaborative manner. Open source software is the most prominent example of open source development and often compared to user-generated content or open content movements.
Open source software means the source code of the software is open for viewing and editing. The users have the freedom to edit the source code, rename it and use it the way they wish. This is contrary to proprietary software, which does not allow the buyers/users to look at the source code.
The Software consists of two parts namely;
· Source code; and
· Object code.
Nowadays, computer programs are written in high level computer languages using compact English words. This can be understood by humans only and not by computers. This is known as the source code.
Ordinarily, Source code is not disclosed wholly. It is disclosed partially and it is not available on internet. The Source code can be licenced but that too only to use a particular work. The important thing is that it is not free at all. It is proprietary software. One has to pay a large sum of money to buy it and then only can use it the way one wish. But the open source software provides source code free of cost and the person can use it or modify without going through any formality.
Protection of Source Code
Source code is a kind of description. Copyright lies in the description and source code of a computer program being description is a literary work within the meaning of the Copyright Act. If it is not published then it is protected as a trade secret. In case it is published then it is protected as a copyright and it may also be protected as a patent.
The languages also have a program called compiler and with its help, source code is compiled into the language that computers can understand. This is called the object called or a machine code. This runs the computer or any application therein. In a general sense object code is a sequence of statements in a computer language, usually a machine code language.
Generally, this software is not open for public domain but by its nature of being open software, they are freely available for public in public domain.
Protection of Object Code
There was some debate as to how the object code protected but Article 11 of the TRIPS mandates its members to provide authors with the right to authorise or to prohibit commercial rental of at least computer programs and cinematographic works. This has also been provided under Section 14(b) of the Copyright Act and now in our country also it is protected as copyright.
Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work. In other words, copyleft is a general method for making a program free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.
General Public Licence
The GNU General Public License is the most widely used free software license. The GPL is the first copyleft license for general use, which means that derived works can only be distributed under the same license terms. Under this philosophy, the GPL grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the free software definition and uses copyleft to ensure the freedoms are preserved, even when the work is changed or added.
How to make program free Software
The simplest way to make program free software is to put it in the public domain. This allows people to share the program and their improvements, if they are so minded. Anyone can download program by such sites where no description of payment is made.
Hurdles in making a program free Software
It allows uncooperative people to convert the program into proprietary software. They can make changes, many or few, and distribute the result as a proprietary product. People who receive the program in that modified form do not have the freedom that the original author gave them; the middleman has stripped it away.
Program free software has the following conditions;
· The software is royalty free and no fee is charged for the same;
· The source code is disclosed;
· There is freedom to modify the software; and
· Anyone who redistributes the software, with or without changes, must pass along similar freedoms to others.
Advantages of Open Source Software
Open source software is flooded with so many advantages. There are few of them mentioned below:
· No Copyright infringement: Open Source Software (OSS) is free and open for everyone to use it in any manner except contrary to any law for the time being in force and it can be modified. Accordingly there is no Copyright in Open Source Software; therefore there will be no infringement in relation to Copyright.
· Lesser cost: Open Source Software (OSS) is royalty free; it does not cost anything. The only cost is for services or support for the same. The cost reduction has an impact on the proprietary software too. In order to be competitive, their cost is being reduced.
· Service sector: Adoption of Open Source software (OSS) may open new jobs in the service sector.
· Customise software: The Open Source Software gives its users to right to use the software in any way. It combines with redistribution rights, which helps in turn to build up a market for support and customization of the software, which can only attract more and more developers to work in the project. This in turn helps to improve the quality of the product, and to improve its functionality.
· Avoids IPR: It does not create intellectual property right in the Software because it is open for public domain. Therefore it avoids IPR.
· Different licences not required: Licence is granted to do only particular work, for a different work, different licence has to be made but for using software from open source there is no need for any kind of different licence to do different kind of works.
Importance of Open Source Software in better E-Governance
Open Source Software helps in the betterment of the E-Governance as they are free and easily available without getting into any formality. There are some advantages which help one’s E-governance. These are as follow below:
· Economic: India spends a large amount of money on personal computers and proprietary software like Microsoft office, Windows XP etc, whereas these software are free like linux etc, and therefore it helps in countries economy.
· Localisation Support: Localisation play a major role in adoption, as government can use technology to communicate to citizens in their own language. For example, Red hat Enterprise Linux Desktop is available in 11 Indian languages.
· Powering E-Governance: In the area of E-Governance, the Government spending on software development can be made more efficient if it adopts the open source model that promotes the sharing of software code. Government departments across different states have the same requirements and instead of each government department developing separate programs for the same task, they could share the same code base and make minor changes to suit the needs of the each state.
· Better Security: E-governance software uses Citizens personal data, it need more protection and security and the same is provided by the Open Source Software as the source can be evaluated and fixed by open source community and the system vulnerabilities often discovered by the community itself not by hackers.
· Independence from Western Countries: Open Source Software can make our Country independent from Western Countries. We do not need to depend on their software companies as by open source we can download, modify and use it the way we want without paying any penny for all these purposes.
Open Source Software is booming software which provides free software without any hurdle in the process of using it and no doubt it is helping in the overall development of any Countries Government. It is cost effective which is obviously affecting one’s Country in positive way. However, it can be misused by corrupt people. They can turn it into proprietary software for their interest, mostly, monetary interest. There is lack of proper policy which can regulate it and keep check on it so no one can misuse it.
This is not well known Software. There are large number of people who are still not aware of it. There should be proper advertisement to make aware all those who are still not ware of its benefit and advantages.
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org