Lanka rides $60Bn global FOSS wave to help exporters, aiming cost advantage

Asian Tribune

31/05/2014

Lanka rides $60Bn global FOSS wave to help exporters, aiming cost advantage

Sri Lanka has a favourable ‘per container cost to export’ rate of only $ 595. After reporting $1.07 Bn record exports in March, the country is now mulling a new high tech initiative to help exporters to lower this rate for added competitive advantage-while eager Lankan exporters are already testing to avail themselves to a portion of $60Bn global savings from Free and Open Source Software (FOSS).

“We want our exporters to be competitive and will go to great lengths to help them in it. We decided that it is time that our exporters adopt FOSS solutions to enhance their competitive advantage” said Sujatha Weerakoone (Director General-EDB) on 29 May in Colombo.

Director General Weerakoone was addressing the Lankan exporters at the “Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) solutions for Lankan Exporters” session held on 29 May in Colombo at EDB Auditorium.

The session was moderated by an eminent ICT industry expert panel consisting of Dr A Ruwan Weerasinghe (Senior Lecturer-University of Colombo School of Computing), Neschae Fernando (VP Strategy & Technology of Zone24x7, USA), Samisa Abeysinghe (VP, Developer Evangelism of WSO2), Suchetha Wijenayake (IT Consultant, Open Source Advocate-fossure.com) and Sampath Wickremesinghe (Technical Project Manager-Zone24x7). 52 reps from 39 Lankan firms in IT and non-IT sectors–including Shaw Wallace Ceylon Limited (Renuka Group), Sri Lanka Telecom, Akbar Brothers (Pvt) Ltd, Data Management Systems (Pvt) Ltd, LOLC Technologies, Open Arc Systems Pvt Ltd, SAITM Campus, McCallum Cargo (Pvt) Ltd, and Nordtex Pvt ltd-were taking part in the 29 May session.

Open software, also called as open source SW, was born as a substitute for expensive proprietary branded software but has grown today to become a free-of-license-cost and direct solution for many industrial and commercial applications. Latest international estimates showed that the 2013 global open source market totalling $ 8 Bn.

Among the big US firms recently taking (‘migrating’) to open source solutions are General Electric, Sears Holding Corp, Chevron Corp and MasterCard. According to the World Bank, Sri Lanka has a favourable ‘per container cost to export’ rate of only $ 595, same as Thailand, Morocco and only $5 more than Hong Kong. Tajikistan has the highest rate $ 8650. Sri Lanka has recorded $ 1.07 Bn exports for this march, YoY rise of 28.6%.

“We want our exporters to be competitive and we will go to great lengths to help them in it. We decided that it is time that our exporters adopt Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) solutions to enhance their competitive advantage specially in cost” said Director General Weerakoone, and added: “Today’s session is the kick-off. Popular proprietary and branded software are prohibitive when it comes to cost but open source solutions are of zero licencing or purchasing costs-they are free. Despite being free, they are as reliable as any paid software. Therefore we want our exporters to see about the specific solutions readily available for them. EDB is also mulling office automation support and enhanced market support for Lankan exporters in future.”

Dr A Ruwan Weerasinghe (Senior Lecturer-University of Colombo School of Computing), addressing the event said: “It is a myth that open source cannot be used at corporate levels or big companies. In fact, RedHat Linux’ SugarCRM open source software is already used by big corporations. Also another myth is that Open Source is not reliable-which is wrong. In fact, 60% of internet websites are placed on web servers running the open source server software called Apache. Yet another myth is that FOSS is hostile to intellectual property-in fact, the truth is FOSS too demands IP protection and Open Source Institute actively pursues them. If no open source license for the software given, then you are not using open source at all though it could be freeware. Open source software always shows the code to the user and makes it available for the user to modify as they wish.” ‘Join $60Bn global savings by use of FOSS’- Neschae Fernando (VP Strategy & Technology of Zone24x7, USA), addressing the exporters said that annual global costs savings from FOSS is $ 60 Bn. “Sweden saved $ 1 Bn and Denmark saved $ 500 Mn last year by using FOSS. The city of Largo, Florida reports a savings of $1 million per year –that is 40% of their annual budget!”

The Lankan exporter community’s interest was apparent immediately. As soon as the 29 May presentations were over, keen reps from exporter community began to shoot many queries, some of which were very technical and FOSS software based, clearly indicating that Sri Lankan exporters have already begun using FOSS solutions.