eTG seminar: FLOSS in the public sector

Notes from the eDevelopment thematic Group seminar on the “Use of Free/Open Source Software in the Public Sector: Brazil Experience“.


Introduction and welcoming speeches

Cem Dener (ECSPE), Deepak Bhatia (GICT), Samia Melhem (GICT), Oleg Petrov (e-Development Thematic Group), Mikhail Bunchuk (Moscow Office), Eduardo Calero

Country offices in Albania, Brazil, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Serbia, Tajikistan, Ukraine, St. Vincent, St. Kitts


Mr. Eduardo Santos, Project Manager, Ministry of Planning, Brasilia – download presentation

FLOSS in Brazilian government

Regulations for free software in Brazil:

  • specific branch in the government responsible for informatics and information policies
  • different committees for FLOSS implementation, legacy systems, systems integration

A lot of internal struggle about the usage of free software, everybody thought they had the best policy

A lot of trouble with migrating, adapting, intergrating -> decision to create new software

Brazilian Public Software Portal

  • sharing software solutions in the government

FLOSS community in Brazil claimed they were also allowed the source code of a product if they purchased it

Public Software Portal evolved

  • companies used software and provided training for other organizations
  • groups of interest emerged from the users of the software
  • Community, companies, municipalities – all users are very important and have different needs -> it’s an ecosystem
  • Now: Providing software solutions for society

Software is more than only software

  • it’s a change in attitude
  • it’s about innovation – more qualified people
  • many economic opportunities
  • savings of more than $ 3.750.000 just by sharing software


GSAN: Complete ERP solution for water and sewage management

  • based mostly on Java technology
  • includes mobile applications

Ginga: digital TV middleware

  • everything open source except the JVM (Java Virtual Machine)

e-Cidade: complete management solution for municipalities

  • taxes, finance, payroll, property management, human resources, education, …

InVesalius: 3D image reconstruction for medical purposes

The International Public Software

Other countries got interested in the software -> UNDP project: Free and Open Source Collaborative Network in Latin America

  • get greater independence from the developed countries
  • FLOSS as tool for development

Future of the network:

  • promote public software in Ibero America
  • working with groups of interest
  • foster regional small companies development


Feedback from participating countries & discussants

Questions & Comments from the country sites

How much was spent to create the portal – as opposed to the savings?

  • This questions always comes – the Brazilian case is specific as there was funding from the government. Initially: $20.000
  • In the last two years ~ $500.000 spent
  • Now there is more funding needed as there is too much software – for consolidating
  • There is a UNDP project (Free and Open Source Collaborative Network in Latin America) right now trying to promote the software – so any country can use the software which was already created

How about maintenance and support for open source software?

  • There was never a problem with getting support – but it is not for free, that’s what people have to accept

Is it possible to get a description of the software in English or only in Portugese? How about language capabilities?

  • Everybody can do it themselves, it’s for free, everybody can download it, change it and customize it
  • Some of the software is already internationalized, but most isn’t

What percentage of software used in the government is open source?

  • We don’t know yet
  • Finance system uses proprietary system, all the banks use Debian Linux

What was the strategy to convince the politicians to use open source?

  • Trying to change the change the name – “Public Software” instead of “Free Software”
  • New developments are only done in free software now any more


Mr. Eduardo Talero, Senior Consultant, e-Government, World Bank

Advantages of FLOSS:

  • avoid vendor lock-in
  • high degree of ownership
  • lower cost

A lot of renowned organizations already run on open source

In a lot of governments and also the World Bank there is a strong bias towards buying propriatery software

  • when trying to change that, there is a lot of pressure
  • this attitude has to be confronted

A lot of disadvantages of proprietary software – such as cost – are neglected

There have to be open standards based business models – to be able to chose which software to use for a certain purpose


Deepak Bhatia & Samia Melhem (GICT)

How was change management implemented?

Often the problem in implementing software is not technology but the people – human factor

Often countries building systems from scratch have better possibilities to use open source software as they have nothing which lies in their way

It’s important to question the old ways things have been done and to learn from experiences such as this one in Brazil


More questions

What’s the ecosystem around the software?

  • there’s not a lot of IT people in the government, now we try to get them in again

What about the human factor?

  • It’s very important, we are considering that
  • To convince people you have to show the open software – but not the operating system, only the ecosystem they are working in – at the beginning

What is the business model?

  • People sell software as a service
  • We try to keep all the development open as long as we can – with the GPL

What’s the size of the team and how much do you spend on it?

  • 4 people – but we want to get more
  • cost is estimated $150.000 per year

How is the participation in research?

  • It’s a problem as a lot of universities are still using proprietary software, it’s a process

How are information security issues are addressed?

  • Ministry is not directly responsible, but the software is very secure and many people work on it

Are there studies on the social impact of OSS on SMEs?

  • Big players are still doing the old business models because they are used to it
  • Therefore the government works with SMEs on OSS issues
  • There was created a market which wasn’t there before – SMEs have to see that there can be money made with OSS

How much would the software GSAN cost if it would be proprietary? How long did it take?

  • We have the number, but not right here
  • Might be around $50.000 per user
  • It was 5 years work

How many municipalities use the e-Cidade so far?

  • around 1400 of 5600 municipalities in Brazil
  • but the product became open source just two months ago

There are also eProcurement systems based on open source – are there ones that can be integrated with digital signatures?

  • All of them can be integrated with digital signatures



Deepak Bhatia, Samia Melhem (GICT), Mr. Eduardo Talero, Cem Dener (ECSPE)

Now the question is how to expand the products to other countries

A lot of utility companies have ERP software which costs $20-40mil, so that’s a very big difference to open source

World Bank can identify solutions available in a particular domain – but we would never judge the quality of solutions

It’s great that countries like Brazil foster a South to South dialog

Creating centers of excellence for software engineering is a great way to get people interested in OSS

  • There could also be international participation in portals such as Brazil’s

Brazil is a very good example to share

There was a culture of sharing established – for all aspects of society

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eTG seminar: FLOSS in the public sector
was published on 17.12.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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2 Responses to “eTG seminar: FLOSS in the public sector”

  1. aurelio Says:

    Parabéns Eduardo pela apresentação.


  2. » Blog Archive » Global CIO Dialogue on the Future of Government Transformation Says:

    […] FLOSS in the public sector […]