GOTS for the Gulf
Shared open source resources could be a cost-effective way for GCC government to access new technology and applications
In the September issue of .GOV, we look at open source software and the uptake in the Gulf. The OSS landscape is very patchy in the region, especially when compared to other countries like the US, where ongoing budget cuts have made every expenditure critical. One interesting concept developed in the US which uses open source concepts and OSS software and components, is ‘Government-off-the-shelf’ (GOTS) software.
Broadly speaking, GOTS is a method of sharing and reusing code among government entities. A software project, owned by a government entity, and then reused by other government entities or contractors working on their behalf. Sharing the source code and components means that new solutions or improvements can be developed without additional costs. After five years of budget cuts the model has proven to be a “lifeline” to many software developers, one company told the magazine.
So could a GOTS scheme work in the Gulf? Of course, the individual countries of the Gulf don’t have anything like the scale, in terms of population and the thousands of city municipal authorities, police departments and so on, meaning there are a lot less projects to share. There is also already a good amount of central co-ordination and central services, but single-country sharing schemes or repositories of approved and certified code and components could certainly have a lot of potential to reduce work and duplication on projects, while giving individual government entities control over their applications.
At a GCC-level, the concept could have greater potential. With greater collaboration among council members, in areas such the GCC Police Force, a program to share code could make great sense – a unified police force will need all the applications of other forces, like case management, records database and so on. A GOTS model could help move towards a single unified solution which individual police forces in each country could then adopt, to unify standards and procedures.
Similarly, every country in the Gulf needs systems to manage things like foreign resident’s visas, labour permits and so on. A shared resource of code and applications would mean that these applications could be developed and maintained while each country is able to take what it needs and build on that. A common base of could would make further integration easier, and work done on Arabisation and localised interfaces can be repeated, not recreated from scratch. There would be need to work out a financial model suitable to sovereign states, rather than the federal government model of the US, but a more open source approach to sharing software could bring considerable benefits to the GCC.