(Sample Material) Study Kit on Current Affairs for UPSC Mains Exam: Science and Technology: Open Source

(Sample Material) Study Kit on Current Affairs for UPSC Mains Examination

Science and Technology: Open Source

  • With the Central Government’s plan to switchover to Open Source Software (OSS) across all its departments as per a policy .decision taken last year, let us look into various aspects of OSS.

Open Sources

  • The Central Government’s decision to go for’ open source alternative entails substantial savings in software purchases.
  • The Government’s. cumulative IT spending is estimated at $66.98 billion (around Rs 4.17 lakh crore) in 2015, according to the Ministry of Communications and IT, which has based this estimate on various global IT research and advisory forecasts.
  • As per NASSCOM’s Data Security Council ‘of India, average spend on cyber security is about 2 to 3 per cent of the total IT spending at about $1.5 to 2 billion.
  • With about 15-20 per cent, of the government’s IT spending comprising of closed software, shifting to open software would help the government save a lot of money.

Doubts on Efficiency and Security

  • The source code of open software is publicly accessible, which can be modified by anyone: This raises questions pertaining to security and operational efficiency.
  • Question about the efficiency of open source software is largely a perception issue. While most people think that closed software work better because large companies are behind them, there are good alternatives to most commercial software and they come at a far cheaper cost.

To use OSS first

  • Educational institutes should be the first places to use open source extensively. Institutes that are operating closed software are generating talent that is too dependent on commercial software.
  • It’s very important to create an environment where open-source talent can come out of these institutes. Open source can aIlow things to be done in a much faster manner and it’s also cheaper.
  • Using such software in government departments is good but using these in educational institutes is even better.

Cause of Concern

  • Open source can work in India only when a strong ‘support system is developed. There are some OSSS which are backed by strong user communities but there are others with less competent communities behind them.
  • If software is not backed by a strong community then there might be some vulnerability which might not be fixed. With no regulation governing these kinds of software using open source in government departments might be a, concern.
  • It is thought that, as OSS is available, to the public’ easily these are vulnerable to hacking by malicious users. But it’s the opposite actually.
  • As the source code is openly available more people are likely to work on such software and fix the vulnerabilities. It’s more difficult to hack into open source software than proprietary software.
  • One of the first organisations to adopt open source were the US military forces. They did so because they believed that this was a more secure alternative.
  • In open source users have access to the algorithm that makes it work, but no one has access to the encryption key or the set of numbers that’ act as a password. Without, that’ password it’s impossible to hack into these.
  • Big institutes like IITs and IIMs have started using open source but a lot more can still be done. Many institutes, especially schools across many states in the country have not been able to adopt this software because there is no serious policy backing them.
  • As a result they are left with no option but to go with commercial vendors for closed software.

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