Technology Neutrality and Government Policy: A Pointless Debate on Open Source Software (OSS)

Intellectual Property and Open Source

Article Snapshot


Bibek Debroy


CNBC and Microsoft, November 2006


This paper asks whether India should support open source software (OSS).

Policy Relevance

Economic growth is supported by competition and choice. The best policy is for government to be technology neutral.

Main Points

  • OSS lets users change the code to suit their own needs; open source code under the General Public License (GPL) must be distributed free. Traditional software (proprietary) cannot usually be redistributed or changed by users and is sold for profit.


  • The Indian government has unwisely favored OSS by including it in mandatory technical standards, preferring it for public sector use through the procurement process, and providing public resources and fiscal incentives for OSS development.


  • OSS is not always cheaper than traditional software when one counts all costs, such as service.


  • OSS and proprietary software should compete fairly. It is a myth that proprietary software models favor Western corporations.


  • There is little evidence that OSS helps develop local talent or industry, produces better software, adapts better to local languages, or will boost India into global markets.

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