Senegal Turns to Open Source Software

Senegal’s state IT agency is turning to open-source software to avoid paying what it sees as prohibitively expensive licensing fees for commercial software.

“We are an underdeveloped country without enough funding for expensive software,” says Tidiane Seck, director of Senegal’s Agence De l’Informatique de l’Etat (ADIE) Dakar.

The move has been under way for a little over a year, beginning soon after the formation of ADIE. The agency is charged with developing an IT infrastructure, including a high-speed network and applications for accounting, payroll and other functions, for Senegal’s government ministries. ADIE runs Linux on its approximately 100 file, e-mail and directory servers and uses MySQL AB’s open-source database. The agency is also deploying ERP5, an enterprise resource planning package from Nexedi, a French software and services company. The ERP software also runs on Linux servers.

Even some big businesses in Senegal do not have the budget to buy ERP software from vendors such as SAP and Oracle, Seck notes.

Nexedi offered French government agencies free training on its software if, in return, the trainee contributed to the software’s development, said Jean-Paul Smets-Solanes, Nexedi’s chief executive.

No French agencies responded, but word of the offer reached Senegal where Mayoro Diagne, a developer with ADIE, took the training course and developed a new budgeting module for ERP5. Senegal, in West Africa, is a former French colony.

The Senegalese IT agency has installed Nexedi’s payroll, accounting and budgeting modules internally where they are used by about a dozen people, Seck says. “What we are doing now is using ourselves as a kind of pilot, and we intend to push other government agencies to use these systems.”

Microsoft had originally sought the ERP contract with the Senegalese agency, according to Diagne. Smets-Solanes said the agency was using a Microsoft Excel application that it had modified internally for its payroll operations.

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