The Limpopo government has adopted a free and open-source software (Foss) strategy and aims to leverage the low barriers to entry to these systems to boost its enterprise development and services sectors and initiatives, says German enterprise open-source software subsidiary SUSE Africa indirect client executive Derek Rule.
Provincial Limpopo Connexion aims to leverage Foss for government organisations and education – the agency and SUSE have already rolled out a Foss system to 25 schools in the province and plan to extend the initiative to more schools. The offline content project has led to significantly results as a result of the year-long project.
However, the province also aims to leverage Foss to boost enterprise development, specifically to leverage the low barriers to entry of Foss for start-up businesses, which would typically have had to rely on costly proprietary support tools and systems.
Further, Foss enables the entrepreneurs to change any systems to suit their business needs, and this requirement for program developers also provides space for developers, software entrepreneurs and system integrators to provide their services to companies using Foss in the province.
Licensing and vendor lock-in are significant factors driving the adoption of Foss, says Rule.
“The cost of licensing fees is often prohibitive for government organisations and small and medium-sized enterprises, not to mention start-ups. Open-source software allows businesses to be up and running without spending thousands on just the software to run an organisation.”
However, access to skills is a problem and developing skills from basic to high-level and training service providers and technologists, as well as the entrepreneurs themselves, are necessary to support the modification and management of these systems for specific business functions.
“The power of open source lies, firstly, in its unparalleled accessibility – free and open – and, secondly, its enables massive customisation, which can help businesses throughout their development into mature organisations.”
Meanwhile, the global community of open-source software users – which includes enterprise-grade open-source software service providers like SUSE – means that many complex, technical and advanced systems can be deployed in businesses free of charge.
“The support and input one receives from the global community of open-source software users is amazing. I put it down to the effect of passion. Community members help because of their passion for developing and the only rules in the community are giving credit where it is due and reciprocity.”
While SUSE’s involvement with the Limpopo initiative will not generate enterprise clients immediately, Rule emphasises that the broader adoption and use of Foss in Limpopo will eventually provide suitable potential clients.
“The focus of these early initiatives is to create a foundation of understanding of Foss, develop the support structures to ensure Foss skills development and thereby bring Limpopo’s businesses, of all sizes, into the digital economy as seamlessly as possible,” he concludes.