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We, the Free Software Community in Thiruvananthapuram, understand that the Kerala State IT Mission is setting up a new organization called KSDI ( Kerala State Spatial Data Infrastructure ). They have put up a Request for Proposals (RFP), on the IT Mission's website, for selection of total solution providers for setting up a Geoportal and Clearinghouse for the Kerala State Spatial Data Infrastructure (KSDI). The tender document available for download in the above link describes an infrastructure that could be completely supported by Free and Open Source Software, but it calls for using proprietary solutions. The state's IT Policy mandates the use of Free Software for government agencies and the tender document is a blatant violation of this policy.
Specific points that we wish to point out:
- 1. A clear violation in the stated IT policy : The tender document specifically calls for the purchase of proprietary software (pages 109-110) like
- Microsoft Windows XP Professional
- ERDAS imagine
- ERDAS Vector, autoSync, VirtualGis,
- ERDAS Map2PDF, MosaicPro
- LPS Core, LPS Stereo, LPS Automatic terrain
- Editor, Terrain Extraction
- ArcGIS 3D Analyst, Network analyst
- Oracle 10i, SQL Server, .net
- 2. In several sections in the RFP, support for some proprietary technologies like Active Directory Services are being demanded. These are neither requisites nor irreplaceable as per the requirements in the RFP. No free software solution will be able to provide support for these proprietary technologies fully but there are many that might effectively replace them.
- 3. The RFP does not necessitate that the software developed for the government is to be under free software license. Nor is it asking for handing over the copyright to the government so that the government can release it and maintain it under free software licenses. This is serious since this makes the government dependant on the service provider forever and effectively bars any future move by the government to change the service provider and switch over to a better or self supporting scheme.
- 4. The RFP demands that proprietary geo data formats have to be supported. This leaves a loop hole for usage of proprietary software to be used. This also prevents usage of free software to access and manipulate data in such format, limiting the current as well as future scope for free software usage.
We do not know how this document with such blatant violation of the state's IT policy has come through from a government which is actively promoting Free Software. But we are sure that if the government goes ahead with the purchase of such expensive proprietary software it is only the third party proprietary software providers who are going to benefit for as long as the project stays alive. We believe that it is our responsibility to bring this to your attention and to bring to your notice that the requirements could be satisfied using Free Software without risking vendor lock in and without wasting public funds.
We, the Free Software Community in Thiruvananthapuram, request the Honourable Chief Minister to look into the situation and take necessary steps to avoid this violation and save the state money amounting to crores of rupees. We also request the government to invest money that is being held for these purposes to build reusable free software components for this project so that similar future endeavours by the government as well as the community might benefit from it. Such move also guarantees employment generation at the local level and the money the state spends will remain in the state itself instead of going out to foreign software monopolies.