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)