Last Updated : Jun 09, 2017 06:43 PM IST | Source:

Microsoft raises concerns on Government’s open source push in GeM

The govt had floated an RFP for design, development, operation and maintenance of GeM on March 21, this year. A new and revised RFP is likely to be floated soon after concerns of various stakeholders

The world’s largest software maker Microsoft has raised concerns over the government putting its weight behind open source software in its recent request for proposal to appoint a managed service provider for its e-marketplace, nicknamed GeM.

“The RFP has allocated 50 out of 150 marks to solutions that are built using open source software only; this means that if a bidder does not use open source product only then it would be impossible for such a bidder to achieve the 65 percent qualification marks in solution evaluation and would then automatically become technically disqualified,” Microsoft has said in a letter to the government, reviewed by Moneycontrol.

Moneycontrol has accessed a copy of the letter. In an official response, Microsoft confirmed sending a letter in this regard.

“We confirm that Microsoft India had sent a letter to the government regarding the e-Marketplace project. The government has taken cognizance of the industry’s concerns and is looking at addressing them. We remain committed to the Digital India vision,” a Microsoft spokesperson told Moneycontrol in an email response.

The government had floated an RFP for design, development, operation and maintenance of Government e-Marketplace (GeM) on March 21, this year. A new and revised RFP is likely to be floated soon after concerns of various stakeholders.

The letter by Microsoft was written to several ministries and government departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Commerce.

The letter further said that Microsoft is one of the biggest contributors to the open source community. “All Microsoft products and cloud offerings work seamlessly with open source. However, we are strongly against shutting out any technology option,” the letter added.

GeM is a platform developed by the procurement arm of the government, the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D), under the Ministry of Commerce. It was launched in August 2016.

The marketplace was envisioned as an online portal on the lines of Flipkart or Amazon, which will enable vendors and government buyers to directly communicate with each other.

Read also: GeM of an idea? All you need to know about the govt's online marketplace

Referring to the open source software policy of the government, released by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MEITY), Microsoft said in the letter, “MEITYs (sic) policy on OSS has not been correctly interpreted or followed…”

“We are disappointed that DGS&D, Ministry of Commerce, which is the apex procurement agency, is violating critical norms of purchasing and going against the frameworks developed by MEITY. This also undermines the Hon’ble Prime Minister’s efforts to improve the Ease of Doing Business,” the letter said.

In March 2015, the government adopted an open source software policy, which made it mandatory for all software applications and services of the government be built using open source software.

“Government organisations shall ensure compliance with this requirement and decide by comparing both OSS (open source software) and CSS (closed source software) options with respect to capability, strategic control, scalability, security, lifetime costs and support requirements,” the policy states.

Departments opting for closed source software over open source technology have to justify the choice, according to the policy.

“Some of the largest e-government projects in India have been implemented on open source, and the key reason for this is the ability to retain control over the technology,” said open source evangelist Venkatesh Hariharan.

He added that in a mission critical project like the GeM, technology independence is even more important and that he wasn’t surprised that open source has been given a “significant weightage”.

Use of free and open source software could lead to estimated savings of about Rs 8,254 crore in Indian schools, and about Rs 51.20 crores in police departments in India, says a 2015 study by Rahul De, Hewlett-Packard Chair Professor, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore.

The United States, United Kingdom and several countries in the European Union have started preferring the use of open source over proprietary software. Closer home, the Unique Identification Authority of India or Aadhaar project has been developed primarily on open source, as is the goods and services tax network, the IT backbone of the GST.
First Published on Jun 7, 2017 05:24 pm
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