31 December 2012
Minister of ICT Meets the Egypt Open Source Association Representatives

- Transition to Open Source Software Gradually
-Setting a New Strategy for Using Open Source Software in the State Administrative Body

Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mr. Hany Mahmoud met with Egypt Open Source Association representatives to review a number of current issues related to the sector. 

Discussions tackled a number of current ICT topics, most importantly, what was raised recently about the Egyptian government renewing the partnership agreement with Microsoft Corp. for using its software and owning desktops and servers licenses used in all ministries and government entities in Egypt. 

In this context, Minister of ICT declared that software is a major industry in the ICT sector globally.  According to him, Egypt is keen to intensify the cooperation with leading major international companies to provide tools, database systems and software through a number of framework agreements that allow Egypt a package of technical and economic features in this field.

Renewing partnership agreement with Microsoft Corp., as he says, is the best alternative at the moment to preserve the rights of the Egyptian government. The agreement signed in April 2009 aims to appoint a licensed software to the Egyptian government from the company for three years ending in October 2012, with the possibility of owning these licenses by the Egyptian government after the agreement period end.

The Minister has formed a committee to study and discuss alternatives that were put forward to maximize the benefit of this agreement. In its final report, the committee recommends to negotiate with Microsoft Corporation the acquisition of these licenses by the Egyptian government to preserve the government investments.

The committee also recommends to keep programs and licenses already in use by the government and entailed in the agreement, in addition to the human development investments for the State’s employees, users of these licenses and national companies. Recommendations include also the applications and information systems developed by national companies and databases built in ministries and agencies.

This comes out of the Egyptian government keenness to regulate the licenses used in the public agencies, out of respect for the protection of intellectual property laws signed by Egypt.

Accordingly, negotiations have been launched with Microsoft Corp. As a result, Microsoft offered the Egyptian government the licenses with the same value stipulated by the acquisition clause in the 2009 agreement. 

The licenses are to be paid within four years. The Egyptian government is to receive periodic updates and maintenance to the programs and licenses throughout the agreement’s duration, in addition to obtaining a 10% return on investment from the company to be allocated for the completion of government projects in the same field.

Recommendations underline the importance of the gradual transition to the use of open source software and cloud computing in accordance with the technical requirements of reducing the operating cost and maximizing the use of government agencies and information centers, so as the transition plan would include the following elements:

  1. Capacity building of technical personnel to deal with open source software, by inserting these programs in universities and institutes curricula.
  2.  Developing training programs for IT professionals in open source software.
  3. Establishing a specialized center for the support management of open-source-software-based applications to develop the domestic market to take benefit of capable companies of providing software support services to government agencies.
  4. Develop a plan to create awareness for beneficiaries of open source software and free software model.
  5. Upon proposing tenders for applications, they must include the software or servers operating licenses required for the application. The operation environment should not be specified unless the tender contract is an extension of an existing application.

Accordingly, in November 2012, Mr. Hany Mahmoud formed a committee to formulate a new strategy on open source software usage in the state administration.  He set a 3 months limit to finalize this strategy implemented in parallel with what has been achieved of the utilized advantages of the Microsoft Corporation partnership agreement, thus bringing the desired gradual shift towards open source software in accordance with the set strategy.

He stressed on the necessity to have this strategy focus work on developing an integrated system to develop the open source software industry in Egypt, in order to actually start the gradual shift. 

Given the seriousness of the sudden shift towards these programs and the negative impact that may result if implemented immediately, it has been agreed to hold a training program in cooperation with the Ministry of Higher Education in faculties of engineering, computer science and IT to create the required technical staff to support the industry.

Among its members, the strategy formulation committee comprised a group of Egyptian university professors and representatives of Egypt open source association. 

The main axes of this strategy were developed, including soft skills at all levels of universities, government officials, companies and developers, with a special emphasis on developing policies and legislation in an attempt to ensure the gradual shift within the public sector.

Moreover, it covers the pillars of government shift, open source software industry development and the change management.

The new strategy addresses studies on the economic feasibility of gradual turning to software open source.  On January 9th, 2013, the open source software Industry Development pillar will be discussed through holding seminars including civil society representatives (Egypt Open Source Association and other associations and companies to discuss and develop the civil society and the private sector vision) in order to participate in developing this important strategy.

Egypt gained many advantages through its partnership with international specialized IT companies such as Microsoft Corporation; the most important is providing licenses to use software at prices much lower than the official rates, which support the growth of this industry and its local spread. 

It also increases investments in Egypt in IT field, where these companies reinvest part of their profits in Egypt in cooperation with local companies, as well as providing job opportunities for youth in the ICT fields. 

Moreover, it improves the status of Egypt internationally in preserving intellectual property and fighting software piracy, besides improving the image of the investment climate in Egypt, increasing global companies' investments in Egypt and attracting more foreign investors from other sectors to invest in the Egyptian market.

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