The Indian Government has initiated its e-Governance projects to connect the millions of Indians living in villages to the internet and related services. A very important part of this project is the procurement of the required hardware most notably PCs and peripherals – for use by the people.
The Indian Government has announced that open drivers are a requirement for the hardware that will be procured under the e-governance projects. This is what the preamble of the Policy on Device Drivers for Procurement of Hardware for e-Governance says:
Government of India (GOI) endeavours to provide e-Governance services, which are technology-neutral, cost effective, interoperable and vendor-neutral. GOI Policy on open standards is a step towards meeting this objective in the development of e-Governance applications.
Because of this new policy, the OEM and vendors have to guarantee that the computer and peripherals that they are supplying can run all General Purpose Operating Systems and that open source drivers are available for all the components.
The policy allows for certain relaxations in case open source drivers are not available. The OEM or vendor has to first provide a justification as to why open source drivers are not available and give guarantee that the open source drivers will be made available before delivery.
A proper implementation of this policy will ensure that choices are available in case changes need to be made in the future. The availability of an open driver will prevent vendor lock-in and ensure that the vendors cannot take any unfair advantage in the future. It is good to see the government actively promoting Free and Open Source Software.