Source: www.deccan.com .
Note: 1 Crore = 10 million, 10 lakh = 1 million, 1$ = Rs.45(approx)
Chennai, Dec. 31: The Tamil Nadu government, which is on a fast-track pushing the state to the top in the Indian IT sector, has almost shut its door on the software giant, Microsoft, preferring the Open Source Systems (OSS) for reasons of costs and easy migrating capabilities.
“Initially, 99 per cent of government systems have been running on Microsoft systems but then 2007 will be a watershed year for the state IT sector. We are fast migrating to Linux operating systems which are so much cheaper and can be operated at low cost, besides offering continuous updates and freedom from viruses,” says Mr C. Umashankar, managing director of state-owned ELCOT, vested with the responsibility of overseeing such ambitious government projects as e-governance, enumerating the beneficiaries of the free TV scheme, family ration cards and the free sari-dhoti distribution.
“We have already dispatched 6,500 Linux systems to village panchayats and another 6,100 Acer desktop systems with Suse Linux operating systems are on their way. We are procuring 20,000 desktop systems for schools, which will run only on Suse Linux. Remaining 30 desktop systems will also migrate as and when the new machines arrive,” Mr Umashankar told this newspaper.
He said all the ELCOT servers were on Redhat Linus and the government IT company’s 28-seater software development wing was fully on Suse Linux.
“We will train over 30,000 government officials in Linux Operating Systems and Open Office. A contract has been already finalised with the government departments and we have set up a Linux support centre with two Linux-certified professionals to assist the state officers. This number will go up to ten or more in 2007, which will be a path-breaking year for government on migration to Linux Operating System,” Mr Umashankar said. “India can live without Microsoft packages and even progress but Microsoft will find it tough without a huge country like India buying their software packages,” he said.
He said a top official from Microsoft India had met him twice to convince him to continue with MS products. The official offered the XP operating system for about Rs.7000 while he quoted Rs.500. “I explained to her that for a mere Rs.300, I could get the entire operating system, office productivity software and a wide range of utility tools, such as DVD/CD writing software, database software, multimedia editing software, vector map-drawing software plus a whole range of software development tools. Also, I have the option of downloading this entire package in DVD media and not even pay that Rs.300, which is the media cost and not the software charges,” said the ELCOT chief, an IT expert himself besides being a senior IAS bureaucrat.
He said he had also pointed out to the Microsoft official that MS Office did not allow saving of documents in open document format. While it was possible to open all MS Office files using Openoffice.org, the vice versa cannot be done. “I asked her why ELCOT should buy such an inferior product when
Openoffice.org is available free of cost for Windows as well as Linux.
She said Microsoft are working on open XML format,” he added. Mr Umashankar said he had written to state finance secretary enumerating the “huge financial and working advantages” of shifting to Open Source Environment in all government departments. “I have been receiving great support from all the senior IAS officers here, from the chief secretary downwards. It is very encouraging.
ELCOT is not the loser when Microsoft did not accept our price of Rs.500; on the other hand, Microsoft loses out due to our big volumes involved,” he said.
“There is a gross misconception among the governments and officials that if they migrate to Open Source platform, Microsoft would get angry and the entire software industry could come to a grinding halt. This is totally misplaced fear,” Mr Umashankar said.
“Within the next five years, it is going to be the IT services which would dominate the revenue share of the IT companies, because more and more users, governments and the corporate sector have started migrating to OS software, thus removing the scope for more revenues from products. It is time that the users understood this scenario and start saving their precious revenues,” Mr Umashankar said.
Talking of the changes happening in this direction, he said he had ordered 43 rack servers for ELCOT to host various government applications. “All the applications are to run under OS software. I would have paid Rs.20 lakh per server if I had adopted proprietary software but now I have saved over Rs.8 crore from this one transaction.
We intend to procure 1000 servers in the next two years. Imagine the amount of savings we are getting out of this,” the ELCOT chief said. “In my view, a state government of TN magnitude would be able to save Rs 200-500 crores every year, when the National e-governance action plan gets implemented,” he said, adding that school children too could get the benefit of “more robust, secure and economical Open Source software for their work,” he added. “Today, there is more demand for OSS trained engineers. I require at least 500 trainers to train 30,000 state officials across Tamil Nadu in the next six months.