What is the most important in Digital India? Different persons may have different views, but for me, the most important aspect of the Digital India, a flagship program of Government of India, is policies related to Open Source. In 2015, Department of Electronics & Information Technology (DeitY) of Ministry of Communication & Information Technology released three major policies related to open source. These policies are quite comprehensive and are potential game changers.

1.Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software for Government of India

The most important policy among these is Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software for Government of India. You may be aware that National Policy on Information Technology 2012  has mentioned, as one of its objectives, to “Adopt open standards and promote open source and open technologies". In view of the National Policy on Information Technology, “Policy on Adoption of Open Source Software for Government of India (GoI)” is released to encourage the formal adoption and use of Open Source Software in government organizations. To ensure strategic control in e-Gov applications and systems and define framework for adoption of OSS along with reducing the total cost of ownership are core objectives of the policy. The Framework For Adoption of Open Source Software In e-Governance Systems  is already prepared. The policy statement clearly says, "Government of India shall endeavour to adopt Open Source Software in all e-Governance systems implemented by various Government organizations, as a preferred option in comparison to Closed Source Software”, and that “The source code shall be available for the community/adopter/end-user to study and modify the software and to redistribute copies of either the original or modified software." It also says, "Source code shall be free from any royalty." Open source enthusiasts all over the world will be glad to know that the nature of compliance of the policy is mandatory. Open source as a preferred option is chosen on the basis of the merit of open source and its approach.

2. Policy On Collaborative Application Development by Opening the Source Code of Government Applications

This is an another important policy related to open source philosophy. The policy, Collaborative Application Development by Opening the Source Code of Government Applications, intends to increase the pace of e-governance application development and rapid roll-out/implementation by adopting an open-source development model based on current worldwide practices like GitHub and SourceForge. By this policy, the Government of India wants to promote re-use of existing developed applications. By opening the source code, the Govt. of India wants successful, scalable, high-quality eGov applications to be developed in a collaborative manner. It also wants new applications to be developed to encourage creativity — both inside and outside the Government by encouraging collaborative development between Govt. departments/agencies and private organizations, citizens and developers to create innovative eGov applications and solutions. eGov application source open approach including the use and release of application source code to public can reduce costs and development time and improve the overall quality and security through increased transparency and mass peer review. A Collaborative Application Development Platform is being prepared to achieve the objective of the same.

3. Policy on Open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) for Government of India

Under the overarching vision of Digital India, Government of India aims to make all government services digitally accessible to citizens through multiple channels, such as web, mobile, and common service delivery outlets. To meet this objective, there is a need for an interoperable ecosystem of data, applications and processes which will make the right information available to the right user at the right time. For promoting Open Standards for software interoperability across various Government departments and agencies, GoI has already notified the “Policy on Open Standards for e-Governance” and “Technical Standards on Interoperability Framework for e-Governance”. The worldwide initiatives on “Open Government” also focus on open APIs to easily access the information collected by Government organizations. This policy intends to encourage the formal use of Open APIs in Government organizations. This policy sets out the government’s approach on the use of “Open APIs” to promote software interoperability for all e-Governance applications & systems and provide access to data and services for promoting participation of all stakeholders including citizens.

Significant work in the field of Open Source has happened in India earlier as well, but this is the first time concrete and comprehensive policies are in place to guide the agencies of the Government of India. The implementation of the policies has been started and we are hopeful that open source, like in other parts of the world, will be hugely helpful and successful in bridging the digital divide in India.


About Rajesh Ranjan

Rajesh Ranjan is Open Source Community Manager at National e-Governance Division (NeGD), Department of Electronics & IT, Ministry of Communications & Information Technology. He has earlier worked with Red Hat, Literare World, Inc., and Indian Express Group. He is the founder the FUEL Project and associated with several open source projects Mozilla, Fedora, LibreOffice, GNOME, KDE etc. You may follow him on Twitter at @kajha.