By the numbers: India saves and grows with free and open source software

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Free and open source software (FOSS) plays an indispensable role in developing countries. As it is often a substitute for more expensive proprietary software, it can impact the economy and progress of a country, like India, in a very positive way.

A survey report on the ‘Economic Impact of FOSS in India’ by a team at IIM – Bangalore gave some interesting results. The study is based on 20 case studies from various Indian governmental departments and educational institutions with FOSS being used as an operating system, server, or application.

Benefits realized by a few organizations:

  • In Kerala (an Indian state), the government replaced Windows software with FOSS on 50,000 desktops in school across the state. They saved nearly $10.2 million USD.

  • The Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), one of the largest insurers in India, replaced their entire IT structure of 3,500 servers and 30,000 desktops with FOSS. They saved $8.75 million USD.

  • The New India Assurance Company, with IT infrastructure of 1,500 servers and 7,000 desktops, saved $16.67 million USD by adopting FOSS.

Ultimately, this study shows that by replacing approximately 50 percent of an Indian company's proprietary software with open source software, it can save close to Rs. 10,000 crore (which is $1.8 billion USD).

But there's more than just the benefit of cost savings; an Indian company can escape from vendor lock-in and modify at their convenience. The ability to change and add new software remains a prevailing benefit of FOSS, and the custom of sharing helps employees become more innovative and contribute to the success and evolution of their organization. Open source software is a truly a valuable substitute in India, with many helpful attributes.

However, FOSS implementation requires increased awareness and encouragement among its users. Government organizations (and other businesses) must take concrete steps for the successful procurement of FOSS—emphasizing IT adoption at all levels. And for there to be adoption, officials and staff must learn as much as they can about the subject. I hope to see further awareness and understanding brought about by government sponsored FOSS education and training courses in the near future.

Aahit is a Senior Counsel at Hewlett Packard Enterprise. Most of his work is centered around handling open source-related legal issues.


It feels very good that this kind of savings has happened by use of open source software.

However, the story sounds like flogging an old horse. The survey report that is quoted and on which the story is based is dated September 2009. The large scale cases mentioned here LIC, NIA - the adoption of Red Hat Enterprise Linux based servers and desktop (many variants of Linux) has happened in 2003- 2005 period. ( I was personally involved in many of these transactions when they happened till 2007)

So I don't understand what purpose this story serves in end 2012.

Since 2005 or even after 2009, many other organisations and many other departments have adopted open source based software in India.

It would have been better to bring out the innovative ways organisations have adopted open source software for delivering key projects in Government departments.

Thank you for your note Mr. Sachin. It is my pleasure to write to you.

You are absolutely right, this study has completed in Sep 2009. I have been working in this industry only for last 2 years and a few months back I came across this study, so had a thought to share with other interested folks.

As you said, you were personally involved in this transaction, you must be aware about so many other facts which I did not cover. Hence, I request you to bring some more info into the picture.

However for many individuals who are new to this industry, this study is completely new or knowledgeable.

Thanks for sharing the PDF for Dr. De's study on the economic impact of FOSS in India. This study is dated (3 years old) at this point. Also, there are a lot of areas where open source is creating impact in India beyond your assessment (for example education, healthcare, entrepreneurial startups). Adding depth and currency to your statements may provide more value to the reader (including newcomers).

Thank you Ms. Sharma.

You rightly mentioned about the constructive impact of FOSS in India. In the past several years, Open Source has gone mainstream. Now, Open Source Software becomes an equal or preferred alternative to proprietary.

I wish that this study would be an encouragement for many newcomers who want to adopt FOSS.

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