Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology‘s (MeitY) is looking to find free and open source software (FOSS) based customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions that it could deploy on its own platforms and use them in the future to develop other interfaces for citizens similar to an Aarogya Setu app or a COWIN platform.
The goal is to create an open source software repository that could be accessed and used in all departments, states, and countries. Currently, the government is working on using open source software to find solutions in the agrotech, health, governance and education segments.
To this end, MeitY had announced the # FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge for which it received 1,400 entries across the country, including level II and III cities.
The winning teams will not only work with the government on its various population-wide platforms, but will also receive cash prizes of up to 90 lakh to develop their solution.
Three winners will be selected separately in the CRM and ERP categories. The first prize will be ₹ 20 lakh, the second prize will be ₹ 15 lakh and the third prize will be ₹ 10 lakh.
Abhishek Singh, CEO of the National Electronic Governance Division (NeGD) said Activity area, “The objective of the # FOSS4Gov Innovation Challenge is to raise awareness and promote free software and to identify solutions that could be used by the government. We want to give the FOSS community the opportunity to build their own solutions, especially in the CRM and ERP space, which can be adopted by the government. This is the first step in building a free software-based govtech stack, and the repository will be available in all departments, states, and countries. ”
“We got a good response and a lot of input and we’re hoping to find a few solutions that will be part of the government’s FOSS repository. ” he added.
Singh said a key challenge to be addressed will be to make government online portals more fluid, allowing citizens to easily interact with government.
MeitY is partnering with investment firm Omidyar Network India (ONI) to mentor the shortlisted teams for the program. ONI will also separately award a special prize to the team that develops and integrates citizen-centric protection into its applications that will protect citizens’ data.
“When MeitY envisioned this, we thought we could help in two ways. We could help the shortlisted innovator with free software and field experts who will guide and mentor them before they present their final ideas. The other aspect is that in addition to what the MeitY does with pricing, we offer pricing specifically for citizen-centric guarantees, because if there is a feature in the app that is particularly useful for protecting citizen data, we will reward that, ”said Varad Pande, Partner, Omidyar Network India Activity area.
While the government is known to work with legacy IT majors to build its various platforms by deploying their proprietary software, the trend is slowly changing. Since 2016, the government has been using open source software to develop several digital services including DigiLocker, Aarogya Setu, UPI, Aadhaar to name a few.
Singh said, “Developing solutions on FOSS involves a collaborative effort of many minds while proprietary software and a fixed number of company engineers work on it. There is no vendor lock. You don’t have to work with the same software over and over again. Whenever you work with software companies on a digital service, each project is implemented with a three- or five-year fixed-term contract. Show that you have to pay more money and go for a single source of supply.
“In FOSS there is always a community of developers who are ready to engage with you and help you. The overall cost of ownership is also lower for the government. And when it’s available for replication, others don’t have to build the solution from scratch. Singh added.
“In addition to cost and vendor blocking issues, open source software allows for greater accountability and transparency. Apps like Aarogya Setu and COWIN were built on FOSS, and when the code was shared with the wider community a number of people returned to report bugs and other issues, which the government incorporated. This increases engagement with the community. Pande said.