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Scott McNealy warns Middle East getting left behind on open source

Governments and businesses need to make more use of open source technology to leverage benefits says McNealy

Sun Microsystems chairman and co-founder Scott McNealy has warned that e-government projects in the Middle East should make more use of open source software to improve their efficiency.

Speaking in his keynote address to the GITEX Global Conference, McNealy said that instead of governments and organizations in the region all developing their own applications separately, they should be more open to sharing the code behind e-government systems.

“Only 6 of the world’s 268 governmental open source initiatives originated in the Middle East, which means you are a little bit behind here, 75% of the egovernment code created here is redundant – Saudi Arabia’s built an identity management, password, healthcare, procurement systems, Jordan, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain have all created individual but almost identical systems – its seems to me that collaborating around these kinds of architecture would be hugely advantageous,” he said.

McNealy said that Sun has donated more source code to the open source community than any other business in the world, with the aim of making the “language of computing language of computing as freely available as the written and spoken languages that we all use”.

Through sharing of code and open standards, he said, more organizations could access technology with no barrier to entry, allowing better solutions to be developed for all, with greater data portability between systems and with better security.

The intellectual property that Sun has released as open source has proven to be exceptional successful, with the OpenOffice productivity suite registering 1.9 million downloads per week; the MySQL database logging 70,000 downloads per day, and over 13 million download registrations of the Solaris operating system. Sun’s open source Sparc microprocessor architecture was being adopted as standard by the Chinese government.

McNealy said that while there was some uptake of Sun’s open source solutions in the region, most notably the MySQL database which is in use with Dubai Municipality, the UAE RTA, Emirates Bank, Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways, organizations in the Middle East should take more advantage of open source, to ensure that they compete with the rest of the world.

“We spent over $26 billion to date on R&D. We are making a non-exclusive contribution to the Middle East of all that technology, by open-sourcing it – take advantage of it, its there, it is not exclusive and I can guarantee you that China, India and other countries around the world are very excited about this, and are taking huge advantage of all this open source intellectual property. The invitation for you all is to start downloading from Sun.com now,” McNealy said.