Indonesian Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Initiatives: Implications for Its Distributed Network Topology and Design

Author: Ima Apriany

This essay was submitted as an individual essay assignment on ISIT925-Network Design.


Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) initiative are promising to deliver strategic advantage, especially for Indonesia as a developing country. Despite its impediments in its implementation, the government agencies and higher educational institution are motivated to commit and collaborate in creating FOSS community by underpinning a distributed network. Consequently, there will be some technical requirement implications for its network design and also a need for an enhanced computing strategy that can be utilised so that the FOSS initiative can be implemented efficiently. In this paper, a topology for data transfer process was elaborated that engaged 32 nodes throughout Indonesia while the network requirement analysis was derived from user requirement which is least technical then drilled down into application, device and network as the most technical one.

Keywords – Free Open Source Software (FOSS), Indonesia Higher Education Network (INHERENT), Government Initiatives, Network Topology, Network Design

1      Introduction

Open Source Software is defined as software for which further developers and users were having access to its source code (Gacek & Arief, 2004). A significant number of open source software is also distributed at minor cost or even free with narrow restrictions on how it can be utilised. It enables users to modify it to meet their own requirements. Those beneficial points differentiate it from the commercial practice by proprietary software industries that only publish the binary released versions of the operating system and software (Madey, Freeh, & Tynan, 2002). Currently, the savvy vendors of proprietary software are hugely making contracts with many institutions as a disrupting but legal practice. Hence, vendor lock-in is unavoidable since corporate are getting dependent on the patch upgrades and future versions of proprietary software packages.

Meanwhile, there is a rise of the software piracy rate in developing countries which is alarming and requiring high attention from their government. Data released by Business Software Alliance (BSA, 2012), a non-profit organisation in the field of the software showed that in 2011, some developing countries, such as Indonesia reached 86% level of software piracy, which 8 of the ten programs that are installed by computer users is without a license. The high level of piracy made this country proposed by the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) to be included in priority watch list (Rusli & Abdoellah, 2016). Any countries included in this list would lose facilities in generalised system of preference (GSP), which is a special facility for developing countries in the implementation of the tariff exemption export. This issue became a major trigger in raising the awareness of intellectual property violation related to macroeconomic stability for Indonesia. Furthermore, software piracy certainly cannot be ruled out since this issue also become the result of the study from The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in 2003, proposed that developing countries be recommended to adopt Free Open Source Software (FOSS).

As an option, the government may consider the FOSS for their IT infrastructures. It is since the rapid development of open source platform allows individuals and large corporate. Offering many kinds of benefits both financially and technically, open source convinces the public to stop using the expensive commercial software. Yet, overcoming the situation on reducing software privacy numbers is a challenging issue. As happened in Indonesia, the option has been chosen. Indonesia‘s State-Ministry of Research and Technology itself has announced a program called IGOS (Indonesia Go Open Source) and founded the Center for Open Source Technology Awakening (COSTA) to foster open source development and intensify the capacity of human resources in information technology. IGOS program contribution to the Indonesian government’s efforts to boost the number of local software developers is used as a success indicator, resulting an increment from 100 companies in 2004 to 500 companies in 2010 (Rusli & Abdoellah, 2016). However, the impediment still exists, alongside with the opportunity to use.

1.1    Impediment of FOSS Implementation

Some barriers of FOSS implementation in developing country are hampering. Some of the challenges also exist in developed country up until now. A survey from Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) found that there were over three hundred open source policy initiatives (Lewis, 2010). Those initiatives are emerged by both of government in developed and developing countries, including Indonesia. However, lack of support from the community, guarantee service, and documentations may slow the implementation. Meanwhile, as a comparison, in a developed country such as Australia, an official government’s Open Source Software Policy is providing key guidance to consider for open source software including in software procurements phase (Australian Government Information Management Office, 2011). The risks that they may face are also provided when integrating or customising open source software. For example, when the Australian Tax Office (ATO) assessed Open Source Software aside from proprietary solutions (Lewis, 2010). Looking into both cases above, although FOSS is in its rise, impediments always exist when dealing with the open source software, regardless their country. In a narrowed view, this case may potentially vary in developing countries.

The first issue on developing countries lay on acquisition or knowledge transfer and availability of support. One of this indicator is a support from the community. While allocation of reliable technical support need to be addressed seriously, lack of technical support will directly affects the performance and delivery of services in agencies that use open source software. Unavailability of skilled personnel who are in charge to do maintenance, support, and ready for future proofing of FOSS platform is a problematic situation when software failure occurs can, in some cases, count into greater expenses as well as dependence itself for third party vendor (Kovacs, Drozdik, Zuliani, & Succi, 2004).

The second issue is service guarantee indemnifications.  FOSS for its deployment to its migration does not provide any warranty as indemnifications. Software failure unquestionably will cause a loss of productivity.  When a nonconformity in a proprietary software causes a significant loss, the agencies or institution can hold the vendor responsible for that lost based on its terms and agreement. However, dealing with FOSS leads to different consequences. Service guarantee may be the reason for that the government of developing countries particularly in Indonesia, many computer software tenders still use provisions that require a vendor as the software manager.

The last issue is the documentation of the free open source software. While software maintenance is an indispensable process in a lifecycle of any software, an evaluation conducted by Koponen (2007) revealed that in the open source software project, maintenance processes are untraceable and uncontrolled. Defect reports were seasonally resolved, and the number of source code changes was much greater than the number of fixed defects. Although there are maintenance activities in FOSS, those activities seem to be different from what are described and presented in its project documentation.

1.2    Motivation of FOSS Initiatives

Motivations that are driving governmental initiatives in using FOSS choice include Intellectual property compliance (Kogut & Metiu, 2001), sustainable economic development, innovation improvement and localisation. First, software piracy occurs as a result of reliance on proprietary closed source software while there is a need to use the software but is not accompanied by the ability to buy a genuine license. There also ignorance of the Indonesian public regarding Intellectual Property Rights and the lack of intellectual property teaching in schools and educational institutions. Therefore, intellectual property compliance is the foremost reason that will impact the development and strategy of building a legal and transparent civilisation. This kind of compliance also fosters audibility and support gratification-free.

Second, minimize dependency on the particular vendor and foreign brand or be less reliant on proprietary software is also following as Indonesian motivation (Lewis, 2010; Mindel, Mui, & Verma, 2007). By implementing FOSS at a reasonable cost, a country can achieve sustainable social and macroeconomic development (Mindel et al., 2007) rather than controlled by proprietary software that is exploited in a way designed to make a profit. Besides, open source can be lucrative by saving the cost of foreign exchange.

Third, consideration for the FOSS preference in developing country improve innovation since it is inversely distributed for a fee and in binary form as proprietary software do. FOSS movement present chance for developing countries to engage any frontier innovation, therefore, it changes the paradigm of “IT import” into “IT export”. In the world of education, particularly in schools usually rely on the delivery of theory. Now, with this open source platform learners can implement the theoretical knowledge acquired through current programs that can facilitate learning.

Finally, localization or local convention (Waqar Ul Qounain Jaffry & Kayani, 2005) is also one of features that can be approached by FOSS translation. Software localization bridges the barrier of a local community in a developing country that has a large range of subcultural and ethnic to cope with comprehensible emerging technology in terms of native language. FOSS will be an accessible solution to accommodate this localization or when it comes to adaptation and customization to specific local requirement (Dravis, 2003; Kshetri, 2004).

As there are both benefits and impediments, implementing FOSS also implies network design, especially for the Government who want to use this infrastructure. It is because, FOSS over flexibility on code modification. We narrow down the discussion in the developing countries, as happened in Indonesia.


2.1    Network Design for FOSS: Case Study of INHERENT

Assisted by government agencies, the FOSS distribution and development also participated by higher educational institution named Indonesia Higher Educational Network (INHERENT). There are at least two things that must be fulfilled for FOSS distribution and development. First, the network topology that is adequate as a medium for data transfer process. Second, open source applications or contents which the community of higher education to the working world can adapt, use, and feel the benefits of using open source for all computing tasks.

Figure 1. Indonesian Higher Educational Network Topology (Nizam, 2007)
Figure 1. Indonesian Higher Educational Network Topology (Nizam, 2007)

Depicted on figure 1 is a network topology of INHERENT. The main ring network is located in Java Island with five universities as its backbone. Those five universities are Indonesia University, Institute of Technology Bandung, Sepuluh November Institute of Technology, Gadjah Mada University, and the Diponegoro University (Indonesia Higher Education Department, 2016). Those backbones are connected using a line Synchronous Transport Module level-1 (STM1), the standard for fibre optic SDH ITU-T network transmission, with a total of 155 Mbps bandwidth capacity (Nizam, 2007). On the first phase of development, the network engaged 32 universities. This distributed environments addressed and ranged from operating systems which control how a device works, to the end-user applications which encompassing databases, browsers, web servers, media or file exchange servers, email systems and also include Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solutions. Up to here, communication backbone with a set of protocols as well as packet switching allow interoperability among distributed system, which also fundamental for distribution of open source and be outlined on its network requirement.

The second step after topology is to establish the network requirement analysis. It is derived from user requirement which is least technical then drilled down into application, device and last for network as the most technical one (McCabe, 2007). Adaptability and affordability would be the highest rank of the requirement of Indonesian user since that end user is prioritized for government agencies to school and higher education. Application requirement may consider MySQL as open source database, Mozilla Firefox as open source browser, PHP for server-side scripting language, OpenOffice for document processing, and Java as object-oriented programming language. Every computer that stores an accessible website must contain a web-server, which can be accommodated by a robust and powerful Apache HTTP server. Web Service APIs are now a common feature in open source applications as service orientation will promote flexibility, self-service and vendor agnostic. The requirement also takes Intranet that supports data flow and communication transfer among institution. All of those end-user application requirement are suggested in Table 1.

Table 1. Application and platform in FOSS development

Application/ Platform Type of FOSS development
MySQL database
Mozilla Firefox browser
PHP server-side scripting language
OpenOffice document processing
Java object-oriented programming language
Apache web-server
Linux operating system
Open source PaaS cloud-based platform

Ultimately, the requirement of the distributed open source environment deal with a viable server platforms, with Linux as the most adopted operating system (Dedrick & West, 2004). This server platform will need consideration about compatibility with critical device and application. For mobile platforms, today Android is an open source operating system which powers a variety of devices. Android is being intensively favoured by the people of Indonesia, such as those produced by Samsung, and has become the preferred operating system surpassing Apple’s iOS (Lukman, 2013).

An enhanced computing strategy, cloud-based and license-free platform such as Open source PaaS can be the proposed solution for FOSS initiative. To focus in creating innovative value added services rather than complexity of design and deployment, Open source PaaS model provides choice of cloud storage (private, public or hybrid), choice of development frameworks (Java, Spring or Ruby) and client-server application services (MySQL or PostgreSQL)(Krishna, Nandimandalam, & Choi, 2016). In this platform, the desirable features like elastic IP address, security rule, user specific resource management as well as live migration for maintenance are already set up (Baset, 2012).  Before employing Open source PaaS it is important to identify which cloud manager or provider that offers services that are more appropriate to the agencies adopting it. This includes checking for reliability, migration capabilities, acceleration for the implementation, and accessibility.


While government agencies and the higher education institutions are responsible to comply with the provisions of both FOSS and proprietary software licences, breaches of licence may be due to a lack of governance in tracking of the FOSS acquisition within an institution or an agency. Therefore, those who are responsible must ensure that they have the appropriate governance to monitor and evaluate all instances of FOSS. Traditional methodologies for examining and approving procurement may need to be attached with acquisition and deployment mechanisms. Therefore, personnel who use the FOSS should be informed of any licensing obligations (Australian Government Information Management Office, 2011). It means that traditional development mechanism are still required to deliver high quality, usable and functional applications. OSS should be evaluated and deployed using the same methodologies and disciplined care as any other ICT solution (Dravis, 2003)

In order to evaluate the level of quality of FOSS product acquisition, the agencies may adopt Open Source Maturity Model (OSMM). OSMM also recommended by Malaysian public sector (Government of Malaysia, 2004). This model contains the basic elements of progressive FOSS deployment (Petrinja, Nambakam, & Sillitti, 2009), hence a developing country may start simply from the modest level and gradually develop to the higher one. By adhere such measurement and maturity model it is expected that FOSS usage in the Indonesia will gain trustworthy of all stakeholders and promote continuous improvement.

The motivation of intellectual property compliance along with sustainable economic development, innovation improvement and localization lead Indonesian government to the initiatives in switching proprietary software into Free Open Source (FOSS). Despite its impediments in its implementation, the government agencies and higher educational institution are committed and collaborate to create FOSS community by optimising five backbone of ring network and engaged 32 nodes of network point. The network topology that is adequate as a medium for data transfer process and the network requirement for applications or contents is elaborated. Cloud-based Open Source PaaS is also proposed for an enhanced computing strategy. The computing strategy will be an option in order to focus in innovation creation instead of tackling with the complexity of design and deployment. Last, the evaluation and measurement method of FOSS is described which allow the agencies or institution for continuous improvement.


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Indonesian Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Initiatives: Implications for Its Distributed Network Topology and Design

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