Senegal's state IT agency is turning to open source software to avoid paying what it sees as prohibitively expensive licence fees for commercial software, government representatives say.

"We are an underdeveloped country without enough funding for expensive software. Open source systems are suitable because, with open source, these cost constraints are not there," says Tidiane Seck, director of Senegal's Agence De l'Informatique de l'Etat (ADIE), or state IT agency.

The move has been under way for a little over a year and began soon after the formation of ADIE, which is charged with developing an IT infrastructure for Senegal's government ministries, including a high-speed network and applications for accounting, payroll and other functions.

The agency runs Linux on all of its approximately 100 servers for file, e-mail and directory serving, and uses MySQL AB's open source database. It is also in the process of rolling out an open source ERP package from French software start-up Nexedi.

The government still uses Microsoft's Windows XP software on about 8 000 desktop and laptop PCs, but has been experimenting with OpenOffice and hopes eventually to move those machines to open source software as well, Seck says. "Many users know the Microsoft desktop system and it is difficult to change that," he adds.

Senegal is one of an unknown number of governments around the world which, under pressure to cut costs while also providing online services for citizens, are turning to open source software as a way to reduce software licensing costs.

"We have no ideology about Microsoft and Linux," Seck says. "Using open source is very convenient because it is suitable for providing us with good solutions with less money."ADIE buys PCs from local distributors for about $1 500, including Windows XP and Microsoft Office, he said. Switching to open source could cut the price of new machines to $1 000, he estimates. Even some big businesses in Senegal do not have the budget to buy ERP software from vendors such as SAP AG and Oracle, Seck adds

All Africa

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