Open Source: Of the people, for the people, by the people
As a democracy, we pride ourselves on the fact that the citizen is at the center of our nation, and our governance is based on the common foundation of being ‘of the people, for the people, and by the people’.
As a democracy, we pride ourselves on the fact that the citizen is at the center of our nation, and our governance is based on a common foundation of being ‘of the people, for the people, and by the people’. Governments across the world are adapting to the mass onset of the Internet penetration, and e-governance is now commonplace globally. Many e-governance solutions today use open source, and makes sense, as open source is also ‘of the people, for the people, and by the people’! Open Source for e-governance is a match made in tech heaven.
Before understanding the reasons behind why an open source framework is the most optimal choice for e-governance solutions, it is important to understand what open source means. Well in simple terms, open source software is where the source code is made available under a license in which the copyright holder provides the rights to study, change and distribute the software to anyone for any purpose. Open source becomes the best framework for e-Governance to use as the end objective is that Governments need scalable and high-performance solutions to close the gap between themselves and the public. E-governance ensures transparency and convenience within a Government and its citizens. Services like Octroi, Tax Filing, and regular utility payments offered online need to be seamless and scalable, and solutions not built on open source platforms often make the system less user friendly and the short-coming of the solution not being able to service large amounts of data leading to problems in speed, or even worse, the portal crashing. Understanding the benefits that open source solutions offer over other frameworks, the Government has recently proposed a policy of including open source in the whole IT infrastructure of the Government to make the process smoother and highly scalable, at the end being beneficial to its citizens.
This development poses a great opportunity to the developer community to build high-performance solutions for e-Governance. The best part of the open source community is that the community is constantly improving the framework. Being open source, it becomes easy to co-create value and constantly get better, and as it is beneficial to the whole developer community, the participation of the entire community for constant up gradation of the framework is vast.
After understanding the definition of open source, the biggest threat is seemingly the fact that it is open source. Does this mean that it is not safe, especially to be used for e-Governance? This is a misconception. Open source does not compromise security, and the strength of the security is dependent on the tools used. The framework is as strong as how well the tools are set up in the solution. Everyone knows how to hammer a nail into a wall, but does that necessarily make the wall vulnerable? In open source, the way you use your tools makes a huge difference in the security of your system, and a poor job in using these tools can make the solution vulnerable to hackers. Firewalls need to be deployed for the security of the database in addition to the right security practices of building the solution. If these are considered, the solution will not compromise security even though it is built on an open source framework.
Open Source is the best option for e-Governance. Its open nature allows constant improvements from the open source community, and when built in the correct method using firewalls, the security is protected as well. The best part of the open source for Governments is that the overall cost of building these solutions are much less than other frameworks as it is built, improved, and maintained by a strongly, connect open source community. Truly… ‘of the people, by the people and for the people’.
By Gautam Rege
Founder and Managing Director, Josh Software Private Limited