The use of free and open source software (FOSS) in Zambia: a case study of government departments.

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Bwalya, Tuesday
Mkulama, Abel
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The International Journal of Multi-Disciplinary Research
Introduction-Many governments world over have implemented policies to promote the use of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) as a treaty to reduce the cost of running government and ensure compliance to software piracy laws. In this regard, a study was conducted to measure the FOSS in government departments in Zambia. Methodology-The study employed a survey research method in which a sample of 70 IT managers and staff from government ministries, departments, commissions and quasi-government bodies were sampled and interviewed. The sampling method used was purposive; key government departments were elected for the study by virtual of their importance and one IT manager in each government department was interviewed. Findings-The results reveal that 92.9% of the IT managers/staff from government departments in Zambia were aware of the existence of FOSS. Only 7.1% showed ignorance of FOSS. In terms of the use of FOSS Operating Systems, the study shows that majority (78.6%) of government departments do not use FOSS operating system. Only 21.4% use FOSS Operating systems such as Linux (Ubuntu and others). The study further established that majority government departments in Zambia do not only use Windows operating systems but also use Microsoft Office and a host of other commercial software which cost the Government of the Republic of Zambia a lot of money annually. Results from the study have shown that majority (47.1%) of government institutions in Zambia spent between ZMK 50,000 to ZMK 100,000 annually on commercial operating systems and application software. Among the factors discovered to be responsible for low use FOSS is government’s departments in Zambia is the fact the use of FOSS is not backed by a policy thus making it difficult for ICT personnel to widely use FOSS. Conclusion-The fact that many ICT personnel in government departments are aware of the existence of free and open source software that can replace commercial software gives hope for Zambia to join the ranks of countries such as Brazil which have completely migrated to FOSS thereby reducing the cost of running government. In this regard, the government of Zambia should develop and implement a FOSS policy that will either make it mandatory or advise the use of FOSS in all government departments. This is will go a long way in reducing the cost software.
Computer-assisted instruction--Software. , Open source software.