The role of open source in emerging economies: A Malaysian success story

2010 has been a fantastic year for open source. The progress that Malaysia has made with open source has caught the attention of governments of developed and emerging economies. I would like to share some of the opportunities, challenges, and future benefits that open source can continue to offer to economies such as Malaysia.

One of the things that I’ve been starting to study is the Brazil, Russia, India, and China (BRIC) thesis. In 2000, Goldman Sachs published a report that highlighted the characteristics of these four countries. They found that given their substantial population and land mass, these countries would not only become the dominant economies by 2035, but by 2050, they would be the most important economies in the world—if they’re able to successfully execute a global economic strategy.

How could these developing nations leapfrog strong existing economic blocs such as the US and Europe? The answer lies in the widespread adoption and integration of technology as part of the country’s economic development.

Take Brazil, for example. Last year, President Lula was honored by the ITU in Geneva for the country’s success in crossing the digital divide by bringing not just technology, but government services and economic potential into its rural and impoverished areas. This success has caught the attention of many governments, including the US.

There are three main reasons why governments are interested in adopting open source technology:

  1. They find that open source software helps improve national sovereignty, which is a very important goal for helping the government to do its job.
  2. Open source improves economic development.
  3. Open source helps to grow global knowledge.

In relation to this, I have been following for a number of years the extraordinary goal of achieving 100% participation from governmental agencies adopting open source. In Asia, Malaysia stands out with a success rate of well over 90%. I strongly feel that this should be a point of pride for Malaysia. In fact, it is being talked about by Brazil, India, and the US governments as a remarkable success story.

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