Open source building momentum in Thailand

Large enterprises see technology's benefits

Leading conglomerates and state enterprises are rolling out the expansion of open source technology, while the government has opened the terms of reference for open source bidding, driving momentum in Thailand.

Nectec, Egat, CP All and Panyapiwat representatives will show their support for open source technology at the 10th Thailand Open Source Software Festival on Sept 30 and Oct 1.

However, some parts of the national policy are still missing certain endorsements.

"Open source helps to create choices and allow us more flexibility to modify and add value compared with proprietary systems, especially IP phones, which are still expensive," said Suree Namsiripongpan, General Manager of GoSoft, an IT service company subsidy under CP All.

"Now, when there is, for example, a new branch of 7-Eleven that needs a new IP phone system, they will use open source."

CP All has implemented open source telephony system Asterisk PBX on around 20 percent of its overall communication system and 10 percent of its server systems, cutting costs by some 40 million baht over the past five years.

In state enterprise business, several big organisations have started using open source, but this is still fragmented because each business has specific requirements and limitations, said Pisit Inkasuwan, Director of Information Technology Planning Division, Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat).

At the Information and Communication Technology State Enterprise Club of Thailand, which comprises 50 state enterprise members, there is interest in open sources because some big public companies, such as Thai Airways International, the Stock Exchange of Thailand, and PTT already use the technology, which fosters confidence.

Moreover, every state enterprise in Thailand is required to develop its ICT master plan in the next five years to align with the national ICT 2009-2013 strategy.

"IT is one of the Key Performance Indicators for evaluating state enterprise performance," said Pisit.

Danupol Siamwalla, President of Business for the Open Source Society, added that today there is awareness and acceptance of the benefits of open source in both the private and public sectors, especially when bidding for government projects.

Currently, the society, which so far comprises 10 companies, plans to build a platform to offer pre-integrated solutions which cover servers, high availability computing and security, collaboration and applications.

The framework will illustrate to businesses how open source can be used to serve each objective, including software and support services and alternative choices of products and companies.

The new model of collaboration will help to make small fragmented open source companies more visible to the enterprise, as well as accelerating purchasing decisions and opening chances for small open sources to tap into large organisations and implement bigger projects in the 20 to 30-million-baht range.

Virach Sornlertlamvanich, Assistant Executive Director at Nectec, said companies need to communicate to customers that even though open source is license-free, there will still be some development and implementation costs.

In this fiscal year, the agency has a research budget of 50 million baht to to build an online market place for open source.

The project will encourage open source companies to expand their markets by tapping into online business. For developers, the marketplace will provide an API (Application Programming Interface) which allows them to combine existing software with new products.

Nectec Director Pansak Siriruchatapong added that the agency continues to support open source development in Thailand and has organised the Thailand Open Source Software Festival, which is dedicated to the technology.

The event is jointly supported a number of large enterprises and this year marks the tenth anniversary of the festival, which illustrates the success of the technology.

The event will be held on Sept 30 and Oct 1 at Panyapiwat Institute of Technology (PIT) in Nonthaburi under the theme "Liberalised Imagination to Sustainable Success Organisation".

Meanwhile, Pisit Charnkeikong, Dean, Faculty of Science and Technology at PIT, which is owned by CP All said the institute has joined the event for the first time because it has recognised the demand for open source resource skills.

The institute also plans to train its third-year students in open sources tools and applications so that CP All and True may be well served, along with other business network partners.

The Egat IT director added that even though many large enterprises are using open sources, there is still limited momentum in Thailand to promote the technology and open standard, so a national policy, similar to those in place in China, South Korea and Taiwan, is required.

"More importantly, educational institutes need to teach open source skills because the young generation will be the next users of the technology," he said.

About the author

Writer: Suchit Leesa-nguansuk
Position: Senior Reporter