December 30, 2004—President Chavez issued a decree this week which says that Venezuela’s public administration will switch over to use so-called Open Source software, such as the Linux operating system, over the course of the next two years. Chavez had announced his intention to issue such a decree a few months ago.
The decree states that in the next three months the Minister for Science and Technology should present the president with a national plan for ensuring a smooth transition of Venezuela’s public administration to Open Source software. During these three months, all ministries will be required to assess their technology needs, to educate themselves on the use of free software, and how they can migrate their systems towards such software. These plans are then to be implemented in the following 24 months.
Venezuela is thus stepping in the footsteps of other Latin American countries, such as Brazil and Cuba. The hope of these countries is to be able to save millions of dollars in license fees that software such as Mircosoft Windows and Office generally require governments to pay. According to official figures, Venezuela paid $7.5 million in license fees during 2004.
In Venezuela, the companies IBM and Novell have announced efforts to promote Linux.
Many obstacles remain for the transition to Open Source software in Venezuela because most computer users are used to the proprietary software of Microsoft and because Microsoft has been able to convince the Ministry of Education into signing a long-term contract in return for the donation of hundreds of school computers.