Venezuela: Government migrati…

Venezuela: Government migration to Open Source makes experts scarce


The Venezuelan government is expected to extend its deadline for a mass migration of government institutes to Open Source as the country faces a scarcity of experts. The South American country started ditching proprietary IT in 2005 when it passed "Directive 3.390", a law that requires the entire government to migrate to open source before December 2007. Local consultants now expect this year's deadline to be extended to the end of 2008.

The country's government comprises 27 ministries and more than 520 other public organisations, which must all migrate to an Open Source IT infrastructure. That migrating herd is proving a boon for the local experts. IT companies are scrambling to retrain their staff to deal with the increase in demand. Several of these employees spot the opportunity and start their own consultancy, describes Venezuelan computer science student and part time IT consultant José Parrella. "Most of the support is delivered by these young IT companies."

According to him the more successful consultants are found helping out at local Linux user groups. "This community is strong and improving upon themselves by organising Open Source events, hacklabs, lectures and crash courses."

A second issue hindering the switch over is a lack of available information, adds Rafael Rico Ríos, an IT consultant assisting several of the public institutes. "The information is dispersed and somewhat disorganized."

The government is trying to increase local knowledge, for example with its Free Software Academy, which just started it first courses. Chipping in as well is the state owned oil company, Petroleums of Venezuela (PVSA), which funds activities by the local Open Source community. Last October it funded the 'World Forum on Free Knowledge', a conference held for the fourth time in the southern city of Maturín, which brings together hundreds of Open Source programmers from South America, Mexico, Spain and the United States.

The number of Venezuela's public institutions that have completed the migration is unknown. All ministries are working on it, says Rico Rícos. According to him most ministries have completed the change over of mail servers, name servers, web servers, proxy servers and firewalls. The migration of desktop PCs is going slower. "This is because of the impact it has on hundreds of thousand of users."

The migration at the ministry of Economic Affairs is done or nearly done. It now uses Debian GNU/Linux for its servers, desktop PCs and laptops, according to information on a wiki website monitoring the Venezuelan migration. The same site mentions that the consulate in Montreal, Canada, has also almost finished switching over. On desktop PCs it uses the popular GNU/Linux distribution Ubuntu.
A third example is Cadivi, the currency exchange control office. It now handles millions of requests for information daily with servers partly running the Open Source database Postgres on Debian, replacing Oracle and Red Hat Linux.

Open state

The Debian distribution seems a popular choice. Most notably, it is the operating system chosen by the country's bureau for intellectual property, Servicio Autonomo de Propiedad Intelectual. It migrated all desktop PCs to Debian last year. Debian is also used at the Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología (Science and Technology) and at state energy company Edelca. This is operating two hydro-electric dams in the south of Venezuela and, apart from relying on Debian for their back office, has several hundreds of desktops running this distribution.

Many public institutions however are still starting up their switch to Open Source. This includes the state's oil company. With 20,000 employees PVSA is one of South America's biggest companies and it is in the process of migrating some 1500 highly specialised applications. "PVSA's migration is producing lots of information useful for others", according to Rico Ríos. "We hope this will help to accelerate Venezuela's migration."

Hospital management

Directive 3.390 also stipulates that all software developed for the government should be licensed under the GPL public license. The Venezuelan government set up a repository to facilitate the development of these applications. One example is a tool to manage activities in hospitals, called SGH (Sistema de Gestión Hospetaleria).

© European Communities 2007
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