Cuba detaches from Microsoft, embraces open-source Linux

While US Software giant Microsoft is trying to cast a spell over the world with its Windows Vista, Cuba and Venezuela governments are making efforts to detach themselves from at least one capitalist empire- Microsoft Corp. by shifting state agencies from Microsoft's operating system to the open-source Linux operating system.

Cuba’s communist government has planned to migrate thousands of its computers to open-source software, a move that would further distance the communist nation from the Redmond, WA-based most successful and influential software company.

The move that followed socialist Venezuela’s example to switch to open-source software has been backed by several Cuban government ministers at a technology conference held late last week.

Both governments say they are trying to shift state agencies from Microsoft's proprietary Windows to the open-source Linux operating system developed by a global community of programmers who freely share their code.

On the latest move, Hector Rodriguez, who supervises a Cuban university department of 1,000 students dedicated to developing open-source programs, said, "It’s basically a problem of technological sovereignty, a problem of ideology."

Speaking at the conference, Rodriguez said that Cuba's customs service already has migrated to Linux, while the ministries of culture, higher education and communications are planning to jump into the move.

Some other countries, including China, Brazil and Norway have also announced similar moves. These countries have promoted the development of Linux in order to find an alternative to Microsoft due to its monopoly of the operating systems market, the high cost of proprietary software and security problems.

Besides a variety of reasons, Communications Minister Ramiro Valdes specified the fact that Microsoft's cooperation with U.S. military and intelligence agencies also can be a source of mistrust.

Some Indian states have also planned to shift to open source platform. Many city administrations are also running projects. In Europe, programs in Bristol, England, as well as Amsterdam and Munich, are well underway.

However, Rodriguez, an expert declined to say how long it would take for the Cuban government to migrate most of its systems to Linux. "It would be tough for me to say that we would migrate half the public administration in three years," he said in the conference.

The rate of open-source users in Cuba, which imports many computers preloaded with Windows and also purchases software in third countries such as China, Mexico or Panama, is growing fast, with over 3,000 in a country that struggles with outdated PCs and slow Internet links.