Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Software, opportunities and threats

COMPUTERS cannot be operated without software. The development of computer technology is rapid, including the software. However, according to research conducted by International Data Corporation (IDC) software piracy in Indonesia is rampant, accounting for about 87 percent of products, with software piracy causing state losses of US$70 million to $80 million per year.

Meanwhile, another study by the Business Solution Alliance found that 97 percent of software here is pirated, with total state losses as high as $197 million. "Our nation is notorious for the piracy of software and is ranked the highest in the world after Vietnam and Ukraine," said Tony Chen, president director of PT Microsoft Indonesia.

Last May, a report by the US Trade Representatives Priority Watch List again included Indonesia on the black list for piracy violations. Clearly, this is a slap in the face for the country. State Minister for Research and Technology Kusmayanto Kadiman, who is very concerned about copyright, royalty and software piracy issues, said: "We are aware of the global opportunities and threats concerning this matter. We have also initiated concepts and strategies to mitigate this global tsunami'," he said.

What is obvious then is that without protection of intellectual property the development of new software will never be perfect. Not only does the owner of intellectual property suffer losses, but so does the nation. Indeed, pirating is a short cut to acquire software without legally purchasing it.

However, there is a solution, such as the Open Source (OS) program. Through this program, one can use computer software legally without paying high fees for a license.

The general manager for business development of PT Sun Microsystems Indonesia (SMI), Harry Kaligis, said that the use of software should not benefit only certain providers or vendors. "While paying a fee is unavoidable, the vendor should make available more software alternatives that can be used legally and are affordable so that the number of computer users can increase," he said.

To make the public more aware about the OS program the government established a movement called Indonesia Goes Open Source (IGOS), which was declared on June 30, 2004 by the ministries of research and technology, communications and information, law and human rights, state enterprises and national education.

The spirit of IGOS is to increase the use of open source software and its development in Indonesia. IGOS involves all IT stakeholders, such academics, the private sector, the government and the public. The project was initiated by the use of open source software in government offices with the hope that others would follow suit. "When great ideas and technologies are shared, anything is possible," said Harry.

The spirit and struggle of IGOS is similar to the copyleft movement. There is also another opposing movement from Europe, initiated by Linus Torvalds from Finland, by developing various software for computers based on the motto: "Made by us, for us."

Free Open Source Software (FOSS) has turned into a new balancing measure against attacks from proprietary software, although the word free does not mean totally free. Linux's jargon is no longer considered merely a technology artifact, but has risen to the spirit of the copyleft struggle.

Leaders of numerous countries are also aware of the capitalism threat of certain software, including presidents of developed countries. US President Barack Obama, for example, in his 100 day-program made the White House a pilot project for the development and use of FOSS. Similarly, the Indian president instructed the use of FOSS in the country's defense system. Is it possible for such a thing to happen here in Indonesia? (Burhanuddin Abe)

The Jakata Post, May 11, 2009

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