Saudi Arabia National Open Source Software Policy

Seems this process has been going on for a while now (see previous blogs on the subject), but this time around I am told the policy will be approved by the national government early next year. The original text is now in Arabic so I will not be able to comment directly but our friends at KACST sent me an English version which I used to furnished the comments below.

I hope this time around we will reach the goal line. Comments follow.

1. Vision and mission. Vision is where you would like to be in say 10 or 20 years. Mission is what do we have to do to get there.

2. In this context, the vision is then to have a solid, innovative and competitive national software industry/sector that ensures technological independence while also addressed national and international priorities and requirements.

3. The mission is to make OSS the center piece of this effort by involving the three elements you have under the current vision statement but also adding the academic sector, and focusing on the development of a national OSS ecosystem that generates jobs, caters to local development priorities and supports the strengthening of the public sector by adding public value while fostering efficiency, transparency
and accountability.

4. Under values I will add at least two: 1. Re-usability of technologies and solutions developed with public funding and resources (this is essential to avoid duplication of efforts and waste of public resources and capacities). 2. Innovation and R&D, as OSS can be seen as one of the corners stones to promote innovation in Saudi society, etc.

5. Under goals, I will dare to question the one on costs as this is not really the point of OSS. After all, OSS is not free and has both hidden and real costs. But its real potential it is character of being a public good that is heavy on knowledge and knowledge transfer that an entice R&D, innovation, entrepreneurship and public sector development.

6. The strategic goals looks fine but I will suggest to introduce some sequencing here as they are connected and we need to have a work flow of sorts. Here we could introduce some macro categories such as policy, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, capacity development, benchmarks indicators, R&D etc. This could give policy makers a better feeling of what is required to make this work and WHY this is really important for the country.

7. In addition, we should also say that OSS is not a goal in itself but rather a means to achieve specific goals and targets, In addition, some thought should be given to the idea of “public software” as developed by Brazil and which was used to mainstream OSS into the public sector. There is also an issue of intellectual property rights and a legal framework to ensure OSS licenses can be effectively used in contracts and other legal stuff required.

Cheers, Raúl

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