Many countries worldwide are strongly encouraging and supporting the adoption of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in public and private sectors. This has fuelled the rapid deployment of FOSS solutions in numerous industrial sectors due to the benefits offered by FOSS including high potential for job creation through local software customization, growth of local SME’s and IT skills, vendor lock-in prevention, improved security, and reduced licensing, installation and running costs. It was found that the trend of using FOSS is even extending to more partners from non-ICT areas such as consumer associations, chamber of commerce, stock exchange, management associations, and non-governmental organizations that are showing an increasing interest in many countries for FOSS adoption.Therefore, the concerned governmental sector is prompted to support a planned deployment roadmap of FOSS to get benefit of the numerous advantages offered by FOSS and at the same time reduce the many concerns from use of Proprietary Software, mainly high licensing fees imposed during the purchase and the upgrade of the proprietary software. The Information Technology Authority (ITA) in Oman has the capacity to position itself as main enabler of FOSS deployment in the public and private sectors.

It is why ITA has done considerable efforts in conjunction with a number of public and academic institutions, such as Sultan Qaboos University (SQU) and few higher educational institutions over the last few years in the FOSS awareness, infrastructure, and capacity building fronts. However, to ensure the continuity and sustainability of the on-going efforts, a roadmap for FOSS deployment for the public, as well as private sectors, is highly and timely required. Such a roadmap will lay the foundations for a series of initiatives for launching and developing the local FOSS Industry. This evolving IT industry will contribute to attaining the major objectives of the government, which are centered on job creation, diversification of Oman economy to reduce the current dependence on oil, and increase the GDP per capita. This will also contribute towards building knowledge-based economy and bridge digital divides in society. This project funded by ITA, and carried out by SQU, aims to develop a roadmap for FOSS deployment in Oman over the upcoming five years. The establishment of the road map for the next five years presented in this report was a result of an extensive study of the international FOSS plans, the analysis of local FOSS status in the public and private sectors through surveys and interviews, in addition to the views exchanged with a number of well-known international experts in the FOSS community.

It is worth noting that the status of FOSS in Oman was done for the first time to build a good basis to monitor the future deployment process of FOSS in the sultanate.The main objectives identified from the study are:

  • Contribute to Job creation in ICT sector
  • Contribute to establishment of SMEs in ICT sector
  • Develop skills and talent pool
  • Develop and promote ICT industry
  • Create sustainable local FOSS community
  • Develop Oman’s Intellectual Property (IP) and innovation
  • Lay the cornerstone of self-reliance and independence from software vendors’ lock-in.

Based on these objectives, five deployment domains were identified with a number of initiatives for each domain that will be driven by a Center of Excellence (CoE). The Center of Excellence, which is a requirement for a successful deployment plan, has a number of objectives to achieve; namely, assuring transfer of technology, raising awareness on FOSS in public and private sectors, promoting and implementing FOSS solutions, formulating policies and guidelines, developing educational and training materials, conducting and supporting R&D in FOSS, and working to reduce the overall cost of software licensing. To be successful in its mission, the FOSS-CoE needs to be established the proper way. Therefore, different models of this center that are available worldwide were discussed and a realistic model was suggested for implementation in Oman. This center should be funded by a Consortium of ministries. The CoE will assure the implementation of initiatives of the five domains, which are strongly bounded to the deployment plan objectives. The five domains identified are:

  • Reinforcement of FOSS awareness in educational and public establishment
  • Capitalizing on human resource development in FOSS technologies
  • Adoption of FOSS in public and private sectors
  • Development of FOSS industry and business through entrepreneurship programs and Fostering innovation
  • Propose and assist in the formulation of policies and regulations to encourage FOSS industry

To assure a full success of the roadmap, a good estimation of the cost for establishing the center and running the initiatives was suggested by project team.
The cost of the five-year FOSS deployment plan is very reasonable compared to the expenditures on licensing that exceeded 29 Million Rials for the last 10 years (2006 to 2015). This is the cost for Microsoft basic products only. The projected licensing cost for these products in the next 5 years will be around 30 Million Rials. We believe that this fact by itself is strong enough to consider the proposal of this deployment plan. This is in addition to the many other benefits of FOSS initiatives stated earlier.In case the suggested plan is not considered, the following risks are expected:

  • Failure to seize the opportunity to lead FOSS innovation and deployment in the region.
  • Failure to achieve independence from vendor lock-in, with resulting consequences on security and sovereignty.
  • Loosing competition edge in the regional market place.
  • Missing the opportunity of building national capacity in ICT learning and innovation.
  • Enduring the continuous increase in software licensing costs; adding extra burden on the national expenditure.
  • Missing a genuine opportunity to build a local ICT industry, which could have contributed to the diversification of national sources of income.