The State of Linux: Malaysia's Strong OSS Growth in Servers & Desktops
by Mark Rais, senior editor, for The State of Linux series, Part III.

Adoption and growth in Asia-Pacific is far more expansive than many news stories convey. In my first two articles, I share the strong growth of OSS in Asia-Pacific. In this article, I hope to present the depth and substantial planning that goes into a national OSS I.T. strategy for servers & desktops -- with Malaysia being an excellent example.
There is substantive and positive growth in the use of Linux and Open Source Software (OSS) in Malaysia and for that matter in much of the Asia-Pacific region. Although there is far too little recognition of what is occuring, nations like Malaysia have adopted a wise, balanced approach to Linux use.

Growth in Malaysia is strongly linked to government support. But even private sector growth exists, although most often in the server room.

Mr. Khairil Yusof, from the United Nations Development Program APDIP, shared with me:

On the server side, almost all [Malaysian] local ISPs provide Linux hosting services.
As early as February, 2004, Malaysia began its promotion and implementation plan for OSS. Termed the OSS Master Plan, this initiative has now resulted in all Malaysian states using OSS including: Desktop, Infrastructure and Application.

The plan set in motion by the government in 2004 is comprehensive. It provides insight into what effective national OSS adoption strategies look like. This well orchastrated adoption now also encompasses 27 government ministries. But perhaps most significant of all, over 70% of the implementations are performed by in-house staff.

Desktop Growth a "Master Plan" Component
The OSS Master Plan summary also includes some important notes regarding Desktop Linux and OSS use. The report notes that since 2004, growth in the Desktop use of OSS went from 15% to 37%. It is difficult not to notice the overt signs of substantial and beneficial OSS growth.

Other evidence of the thorough thinking that has gone into this implementation includes the creation of the Malaysian Government Interoperability Framework for OSS (MyGIFOSS), which defines the standards for OSS adoption.

Other nations can learn much from the planning and implementation now bearing fruit in Malaysia.

Areas for Improvement
Of course, there is still work to be done. Mr. Khairil Yusof mentions:
There is still a lack of awareness for both Linux server and
desktop adoption. Furthermore there is a lack of capacity from local
Linux support companies.
Ditesh, Member of the Malaysian FOSS Community, also shares:
A common problem is the lack of FOSS skilled capacity (not just
engineers but system developers too). Some efforts are underway to
bridge this gap, but significant effort is still required to achieve a
more equitable number of the Malaysian IT workforce.
However, much of this can be overcome through the continued backing of the government and support from private sector adoption through banks and large corporations.

The governmental leadership in Malaysia promotes and fosters OSS through the Malaysian Public Sector OSS Initiative. But unlike some other nations, where the government simply supports OSS with basic R&D funding, in Malaysia this initiative derives itself straight from the top.

Strong Support in Public Sector
The implementation of Linux and other OSS is directed from a unit under the leadership of the Department of the Prime Minister. The Malaysian Administration Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) is charged with leading public sector OSS adoption and implementation and does so through a unique and thorough infrastructure.

To help ensure that both the public and private sectors work cooperatively and in conjunction, one component of Malaysia's OSS initiatives is performed through the work of the Open Source Competency Centre (OSCC), whose primary role is to be the facilitator between the public sector and key partners in the private sector.

These initatives also tie in to the work of the United Nations Development program called Asia-Pacific Development Information Programme (APDIP). Promoting the utilization of I.T. in Asia-Pacific nations, this program offers a well organized and implemented plan to help foster OSS in the region.

Moreover, the result is that many nations that previously were behind in technology innovation are now catching-up and in some cases exceeding other nations. Where there was once a lack of technology access among people groups, today access is almost ubiquitous in major cities and innovation centers.

These are overt signs of a wise, innovative and focused approach to OSS adoption and utilization. Although there are still areas of improvement, the meticulous, thought-out plan of national OSS adoption remains strong. Malaysia will continue to see not only a growing strength in its own I.T. development, but also realize a greater influence in the region.

For more information regarding Linux use in Asia, I encourage you to research the Asia Open Source Center website, which includes a great deal of useful information.

Other State of Linux articles in the series include:
The State of Linux: Substantial Growth in Asia-Pacific
The State of Linux: Substantial Growth in New Zealand

Mark Rais serves as senior editor for and as a freelance technology writer. He promotes Open Source to organizations and government leadership in USA, Asia and Africa, and has written a number of Linux books, including Linux for the Rest of Us.

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