I wrote a couple of pieces on the global wave of legislation which is inducing government-owned agencies and companies, to use FOSS except when proprietary software is the only option. This wave is primarily seen in Europe and developing countries. Some of the reasons behind this phenomenon are obvious (such as cost savings) and some are more subtle. Some experts believe there is a clear desire to break free from the U.S.' lock on the global software market/industry. Analysts say concerns about autonomy and national security are likely to drive passage of more laws discouraging use of proprietary software. Proponents of this wave like to call it "software libre" to describe software that is not only free but whose development is not controlled by a single organization/company.
One of the first developing countries to clearly stand behind OSS was Brazil. For the last five years Brazil’s government lead by President Lula is abandoning proprietary software (mainly Windows) in favor of OSS. Sergio Amadeu who runs the National Institute for Information Technology estimates a $500 saving in software for every machine owned/operated by the government which saves Brazil overall $150M a year. These savings allow Lula's government to sponsor new machines as well as recycled machines and distribute them in the favelas (very poor neighborhoods on the outskirts of Sao Paulo and Rio).
The trend could be troubling to software giants like Microsoft, which has eyed the proliferation of open-source software nervously despite the fact that it still controls about 90% of the planet's desktops. Earlier this year Bill Gates tried to meet with President Lula privately at the World Economic Forum in Davos but he was unsuccessful. Following this, Microsoft released a stripped down (cheaper) version of Windows XP in Brazil…
Finally last month FISL (stands for Fórum Internacional do Software Livre) 6.0 took place in Porto Alegre Brazil with prestigious sponsors and speakers. Thousands of enthusiasts got together to discuss how OSS could help them build their country. More on this by Bloomberg.
It's also refreshing to see that Iraq is also taking advantage of OSS. BBC reported that Linux user groups are being created with hundreds of members.
Finally I would like to reiterate for those who read my blog for the first time that I am not an anti-Microsoft or an anti-proprietary/commercial software guy. We all have to make a living. I support OSS because I believe it forces software vendors to innovate and constantly add value. Also I am intrigued by the collaborative and distributed aspects of OSS which inspire and influence the development processes of several commercial vendors. More importantly, I like OSS because it allows some developing countries who cannot afford to pay Microsoft $500 per machine to get the ball rolling and provide computer and internet access for the disadvantaged.