It's been almost 10 years since I have been advocating Open Source Software (Mostly Linux). During this time, I've met many people who loved the idea and also people who never understood the concept or totally hated it. It took time but eventually I knew OSS is here to stay and will soon dominate the computing world.
The first time I openly expressed the idea of open source governance is back in 2007 on mvlinux.blogspot.com as one of the contributors to the blog. Since then the idea have been brought up many time and a lot recently. Today I don't think it's a "crazy" concept anymore. Even NCIT have proposed in it's proposed policy paper that they will look into OSS. This is a good step forward. However I feel not many in the government are ready for such a change/adaptation. Concepts like migrating the OS from Windows to Linux is a scary idea for some sysadmins who don't have much experience or only have exposure to Windows only. Even most of the technology vendors and IT firms don't have the knowledge for such adaptations. This does not mean we should step away from better alternatives just cos we don't have the confidence.
Advantages are many! First of all the cost factor. Even if we can use pirated copies of Windows today, this will come to an end sooner or later. IP laws are something that is expected to come soon. Paying close to USD 200 per computer with OS, Office Applications and Anti-Virus will become a BIG financial burden when this is multiplied in 1000's. This factor is expected to be the biggest driving factor for most to consider OSS in Maldives. Maybe not soon, but in the few years to come.
Other factors like the open nature of software will also be a driving factor. Examples like the current localization of Ubuntu to Dhivehi is happening due to the open nature of Linux. Alternatives like Linux are more secure, stable and flexible compared to the existing OS (Windows) in use. Slowly more people are getting to understand this and explore into alternatives. Today more and more nations and companies are migrating to such alternatives in the world, so it's just a matter of time before Maldives also will have to follow this path. Maybe the policy makers will waste money investing software in millions and give 100's of reasons NOT to migrate, but they would be proven wrong in time. This is my view.
The change should come from the policy level. Not by public pressure or media. This is the responsibility of the people who are assigned to make such choices. They need to be more open minded and responsible towards the greater good than submitting to fear and uncertainty. We may end up saving millions of USD and routing that money to our education, health care and much needed service if a right choice is made today. However I am not very hopeful for such a positive change today. The mindset needs to be changed of the policy makers, which again I don't think will happen soon. Sad part is we will again be left behind when the rest of the world steps ahead of us. We need a new generation of individuals with vision and a feeling of responsibility towards the nation and greater good of everyone for such change to happen. I don't expect this in the post 1st generation of Maumoon era... but it's a dream .. that will come true someday..
Linux has started to slowly influence the IT industry of Maldives too. Presently this is mostly or totally at the back ends. Examples like Island Aviation, Allied Insurance, Wataniya and Dhiraagu are some examples where Linux is deployed at various levels. Next level is the desktop.. I feel distributions like Ubuntu and OSS applications like OpenOffice will soon be adopted by Maldivians just like Firefox replaced IE.