Microsoft defends multimillion dollar deal with RI government

Urip Hudiono, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta

Microsoft Indonesia has spoken out on a controversial recent deal with the government, arguing that the deal was initiated by the government as part of its efforts to improve Indonesia's information technology sector as a whole.

Microsoft Indonesia president director Tony Chen told reporters Thursday that the agreement had been clinched against the backdrop of the government's efforts to reduce software piracy, including negotiating with major software vendors for the use of their products by government institutions.

"As a majority of the computers in government institutions use Microsoft products, we were among the first the government invited," he said.

The Communications and Information Ministry signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Microsoft Indonesia in November last year to provide a total of 35,496 licenses for the Microsoft Windows operating system, and 177,480 licenses for the Microsoft Office productivity suite to government institutions.

The MoU will also offer long-term guarantees for the new software investment, ensuring free upgrades for up to three years.

Microsoft Indonesia is also required to work closely with the government in a partnership to improve IT literacy in the country, including providing computers and IT training to schools across the country.

Tony said that the MoU -- with a 70 percent discounted licensing price -- would result in savings of up to US$200 million for the government, compared to the $250 million it would cost if the government was to buy licenses at regular prices. The government would also save $60 million on the free upgrades.

He said that the agreement also showed the government's seriousness about fighting software piracy, which would help attract more investment to the country's IT sector.

Yet the deal has come under fire, including from the House of Representatives, with the critics arguing that it would create a monopoly for Microsoft, and undermine the government's own "Indonesia Goes Open Source" program, which encourages the use of free and open source software in the public sector.

The trend to use free and open source software has emerged in recent years around the world based on various reasons, including antimonopoly sentiment, transparency, cost efficiency and national security. Among the countries and institutions that have gone open source are Peru, the Extremadura region of Spain, the municipality of Munich in Germany, and a number of government agencies in China.

Microsoft and other proprietary software developers do not disclose the source codes of their products.

Tony said that the government had opted to sign the MoU due to the still-limited use of IGOS, while it needed to move fast to improve both Indonesia's IT sector and public services.

Tony's arguments were confirmed by Communications and Information Minister Sofyan Djalil.
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