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Linux to administer Mexico City

By Philipp in News
Thu Mar 22, 2001 at 07:28:27 AM EST
Tags: Software (all tags)

The municipal administration of Mexico City plans to use Linux instead of Windows on their computers and spend the saved money on social programs. José Barberán, the technical director of the city, confirmed this, according to the Mexican daily newspaper Reforma: "This will save millions that are in my opionion completely unneccessarily spent on software". [translated with permission from Heise Online]

The registration office of Mexico city already works with Linux. Now, the complete move from commercial to open source software to administer the city of 18 million is planned within the next two years. The move is taken in steps not to interfere with the daily business, while the employees are trained in the use of Linux. "We support the philosophy of free software", Valencia Garcia, a colleague of Barberáns, explains, "and we will put the saved money into the municipal social programs, following the slogan of our mayor: For everyone's welfare the poor have to be in the first row".

A MS Office software package costs in Mexico US$250. The average Mexican salary is US$5 per day. So, a private user would have to spend two months' salary to buy it.

Already the Scholar Net Program, started in 1998 by the Mexican government, shows the advantages of Linux for poorer countries. Until 2003, Scholar Net wants to install Linux on 140,000 computers in public elementary and high schools. "We decided on Linux, because otherwise the software licenses for school computers would have been just too expensive", Arturo Espinosa Aldama, the project leader, explained. For each computer the installation of Windows 98, Microsoft Office, and a school server that runs under Windows NT would have costed US$885. By using Linux, license fees of US$124 million can be saved.

Instead of this, Espinoza chose a software package from Red Hat, that costs US$50 for the installation CD and a manual and can be freely copied without license fees and placed on the network for download. Linux is not only stable and safe, but also scalable and as efficient as the commercial products "allowing Linux to be run on older, cheaper and less performant hardware", which is a big factor, since "we do not have a big budget, we have to work with the computers that already exist at the schools, and we do not want to upgrade a lot of hardware". The students like to work with Linux, program their own applications, translate applications into Spanish, and follow their fellow countryman and Linux Guru Miguel de Icaza, who helped to develop the Linux user interface Gnome.

Development experts proclaim already for some time that the technological future of Latin America is determined by freely available software and hardware donations from more industrialized nations. Open source software can help many developing countries not to belong to the "Microsoft client states". Instead tehy would program their own applications, said Gary Chapman, director of the 21st Century project of the university of Texas at Austin. "This not only saves money, but opens the opportunity in the country to build a software industry of their own and not constantly transfer money for software to the US". Also, the Linux advocates hope that the alternative operating system wins over all levels of government that currently work with Windows.

The Windows front line cracks not only in South America or Africa. Also the Chinese software house RedFlag presented the Linux based operating system "Computer 2000", a low cost alternative to Windows which is unaffordable by most users in China.

German original by Andreas Grote / wst (c't)


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Linux to administer Mexico City | 37 comments (8 topical, 29 editorial, 1 hidden)
Adding a few minor details (4.28 / 7) (#2)
by theboz on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 02:54:26 PM EST

The average Mexican salary is US$5 per day.

The thing is that the average Mexican wouldn't use a computer. These are for schools and the government. So, students of course do not make a salary, and the government workers do make more than $1 a day. So, the thing is that linux will probably not be helpful to the majority of people at this point. However, I think it's a good step. I have a friend that works on the helpdesk for Mexico City's government, and he is getting to learn linux as a result of it.

Also, I think that if they didn't use linux, they would use pirated software. I've spent time in Guadalajara and helped a business with their NT based network, and they basically had pirated copies of Windows 95, NT Server, MS SQL Server, Office, and some autocad program. The BSA threatened them so they ended up getting legal copies of everything, but piracy is very common in Mexico.

I'm returning to Guadalajara next month, and I expect to come back with a few CD's of stuff I can't afford myself.


not helpful (4.25 / 4) (#10)
by alprazolam on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 03:37:23 PM EST

That $250 savings on a license could pay for 50 people to be out of work a day, for example (using the author's numbers). So if that money is used towards improving the overall standard of living, as opposed to being sent out of the country to MS, it will indeed benefit the common mexican. This is especially hopeful with the new president, Fox, who is quite keen on getting rid of corruption. The $100 million or so savings could be used for social stuff, infrastracture improvements, whatever, the thing that matters is that overall it can be spent in Mexico, boosting the economy and standard of living.

[ Parent ]
The problem... (3.00 / 1) (#26)
by theboz on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 05:46:54 PM EST

It is true that this is going to save some money, and that Vincente Fox is trying to help his country get out of poverty, but I doubt this money will see the hands of anyone other than high-ranking city officials. I forget but I think that the government of Mexico D.F. is still mostly PRI and we know how corrupt they can be.

However, if my cynicism turns out to be wrong, then that will be great. :o) I have a vested interest in the future of Mexico anyways so I am glad to see improvements made there.

[ Parent ]

Thank you. (4.16 / 6) (#13)
by regeya on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 03:48:39 PM EST

When this was posted to Slashdot, they basically linked to it. Rather than run it through Babelfish, I tried to stumble my way through it. While my Spanish skills aren't too bad, they aren't too good, either. :-)

Having said that, it's good to see and article that's a little more than "Microsoft sux0rs/Linux rox0rs" with some actual real reasons someone's chosen Linux. Nothing really new here, but it's surprising still given the size of the city and whatnot.

And I'm glad to see this story make it over here, because if memory serves, on Slashdot discussion went something like this:

*Hooyeah! Linux rocks! Microsoft sucks!
* Typical Linux bigot. I bet you haven't even tried Win2K.
with no discussion of the legal ramifications of this. Think of it: they're not having to pay extravegant licensing fees, they're not having to illegally pirate the software. They're legally using the software and keeping costs within reason. I'm sure someone has a joke somewhere about Linux only being popular among poor people, or something equally inane. :-)

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

Millions of open source developers? (4.37 / 8) (#15)
by Philipp on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 04:10:48 PM EST

What I find intriguing is not only what free software can do for developing countries, but what developing countries can do for free software: develop it (sorry for the pun).

While business people always start to salivate when they think about a billion Chinese as customers, I find it quite exhilerating to think of millions of free software developers.

This will have a tremendous impact. Especially since a lot of countries have a greater culture of sharing (opposed to money making) than the US.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

The two "Free"s (4.16 / 6) (#20)
by seeS on Mon Mar 19, 2001 at 04:47:03 PM EST

This article shows the two types of "Free" in action. It also shows the difference to these frees and open source.

Like a lot of others, the Mexican government initially was attracted to Linux because of the free beer free, ie they could save a lot of money in license fees. The other free at first didn't come into it.

But then, it seems, they realised not only could they distribute the software for free but they could see the source but also had permission to modify the source code for their own customisations. This is the second free as now they can customise or optimise things for their own use.

As the source is open, they'll be able to see how certain things are done and then eventually give something back to the free software area. This is in addition to the work programmers are doing in that country. The extra effort will then benefit all free software users.

Seems like a very nice solution. Unfortunately not one the morons in Canberra (Australia's Captial) would ever consider going on past performances.
Where's a policeman when you need one to blame the World Wide Web?

Australia... (4.00 / 1) (#34)
by danny on Wed Mar 21, 2001 at 09:17:47 PM EST

At least one Australian pollie has a clue - Barry Jones. I had lunch with him and George Grisancich (Oxfam Community Aid Abroad IT manager) a year or two ago and talked about free software, and he seemed to understand the issues and was quite interested. Left him with a booklet of printouts (ESR, RMS, various stuff taken off the web) and he later asked George for more copies.

I'd love to see a proper free software lobby group in Australia, though...

[900 book reviews and other stuff]
[ Parent ]

Barry Jones isn't understood by his colleagues (none / 0) (#37)
by goonie on Tue Mar 27, 2001 at 07:46:22 PM EST

If you've ever read Barry's book, Sleepers Awake!, he was thinking about a lot of the issues that the internet raised back in the early 1980's. However, the trouble was that none of his fellow cabinet members could understand a word that he was on about. Hence one of the finest thinkers in Australian politics was essentially wasted.

[ Parent ]
Linux to administer Mexico City | 37 comments (8 topical, 29 editorial, 1 hidden)
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