ACCRA - Countries in Africa are gradually adopting strategies that promote the use of Linux as an alternative to Windows, and South Africa is leading the charge, with the government's recent approval of an open source software adoption plan.
Meanwhile Nigeria, which had been lagging behind other countries on the continent in terms of open-source adoption, also has made some moves to adopt Linux in the public education sector.
The South African cabinet of ministers last month made one of the most decisive moves in Africa toward open-source software adoption, approving the Government Open Source Software strategy. The policy was put together by South Africa's Government Information Technology Officers Council (GITOC), which comprises government-agency chief information officers.
The plan recommends that the government implement open source software in cases where analysis shows that it is an appropriate option. It also proposes that open source policies be integrated with broader e-government policy and related strategies for the IT and communications sectors of South Africa.
Cost saving seems to be the main factor that has fueled these developments.
Besides saving the South African government several billion rand, which amounts to several hundred million dollars, adopting open source software would boost the local software industry, said Mojalefa Moseki, the chief information officer of South Africa's State Information Technology Agency (SITA), when the proposal was put together earlier this year. SITA is a South African government agency that provides information systems and other related services to participating departments.
"Most companies that supply open source software applications are local companies," Moseki told the IDG News Service earlier this year. Money spent on open source software would most likely be kept within the South African economy, as opposed to money spent on proprietary software that goes to foreign companies, Moseki said.
South Africa's government spends $352 million every year on licenses for proprietary software.
Various private organization and government officials across the continent, in countries including Kenya, Uganda, Namibia, and Senegal, are pushing state agencies to consider adopting Linux and open source software. In June Nigeria also got into the act, with three organizations -- SchoolNet Nigeria, the Federal Ministry of Education and the Education Tax fund -- pushing the use of Linux, according to Emmanuel Otokhine, who reports on IT for Punch, one of Nigeria's large circulating newspapers.
The three organizations have provided 35 Nigerian high schools with Internet access and other educational technologies built on Linux. Aside from that, they are helping to incorporate the study of Linux in the curriculum of those 35 high schools, Otokhine told the IDG News Service.
Like South Africa the government is pursuing Linux because it finds it a cheaper alternative to Windows, according to Otokhine.