The State of Linux: Substantial Growth in Asia-Pacific
by Mark Rais, senior editor, for The State of Linux series, part 2.

Nearly every day we read about another major migration, adoption, or engagement of Linux in Asia-Pacific -- and with good reason. After visiting the region, I find that most of the leading I.T. nations in Asia-Pacific are experiencing substantive Linux growth.

As a result, far greater numbers of Linux installations and desktop integrations are taking place today than news reports or announcements often convey. Although this article is only a cursory review, hopefully it will testify to the significant growth of Linux in Asia-Pacific.

I saw definitive signs of strong growth in the leading I.T. nations including: Australia, China, India, and New Zealand. For these nations, Linux growth, although often unspoken and covert, is exponential and across sectors. In other nations of the region, most growth concentrates uniquely in one sector, usually the public sector where government funding is included.

India    INDIA
All over India are signs of Linux use and integration applied across sectors. Sushil Mayengbam, GNU/LINUX technologist in New Delhi, India, and writer for, shared with me a few important insights regarding this sector growth:

Linux is going to play a major key role in the overall IT markets [in India] including the government sectors like educational institutes, R&D hubs, academics, banking, telecom etc.
Raghavendra K, from the I.T. capital Bangalore, shares additional insights:
There are many intiatives going on in India to popularise Linux.  

In my university we have Linux User Groups formed and run by students, which takes the intiative of organising seminars. A separate mailing list for the group, where people pool in their thoughts or queries and get instant replies by students out here, etc.
Raghavendra validates what others have also been saying, that Linux popularity is greatly on the rise. He shares:
When I first bought a computer I asked the dealer to load the computer with Linux, but he said he had no idea about it and installed Windows 98.  

But things have changed. Now students are very particular that their system should be loaded with Linux at least as a dual boot.
But the university setting is not the only one being infused with greater Linux use.

Sushil Mayengbam, who authored this excellent article regarding Linux benefits, states:
In the government sector, it is not surprising that the humble President of India even endorsed the feasibility of free open-source software in this nation.
There is a good summation of the President's view in a Times of India article. It is readily apparent that the leadership in India see Open Source as both an empowerment tool and a method of offsetting growing capital expenditure costs.

As mentioned in my previous article Linux in Asia, India's leadership continues to make wisely balanced decisions with effective foresight. Open Source is seen as a key to their continued growth pattern in India. Today, this growth is most dramatic in the private business sector, but steadily expands into the public sector as well. India remains a key driver nation and will be a significant contributor to Linux expansion in the region.

China    CHINA
In nations such as China, much of the large growth occurs today in the public sector. This growth is being led by the strength of big names like IBM and Novell now comfortably settled in the region. But there is also more subtle growth occurring through government initiatives and state funding.

Darryl K. Taft, in his article titled China Says Yes to Linux, No to Open-Source Middleware, shares information on this unique disparity between China's public and private sector growth. He quotes Huang Yong, chief executive at CCID Consulting Co. Ltd. as stating, on the one hand:
China's government
promotes and supports desktop Linux very strongly.  So the government
hopes that Linux -- legal software such as Linux -- can replace all
this piracy.
But on the other hand, he honestly adds:
At present, no Chinese
software company has open-sourced code, particularly in application
As a result, although there is reasonable growth in Linux use in China, it lags substantially behind India.

Malaysian Flag    MALAYSIA
There is substantive and positive growth in the use of Linux and Open Source Software (OSS) in Malaysia and for that matter in much of the Asia-Pacific region. Although there is far too little recognition of what is occuring, nations like Malaysia have adopted a wise, balanced approach to Linux use.

For a much more detail regarding Malaysia's Linux growth, please refer to this article: Malaysia's Strong OSS Growth.

Singapore    SINGAPORE
Similarly, Singapore is seeing Linux adoption primarily among government supported projects. In one of the most recent examples, the Singapore Housing Development Board began to migrate major business applications leveraging IBM and Linux. In a notable quote from Koh Kok, from an AmeInfo article:
IBM's comprehensive
support for Linux has allowed us to move forward on a platform that
we trust.
However, overall sector growth in Singapore lags behind the other nations and needs to be contrasted to the driver nations who are successfully integrating Linux and dominating I.T. expansion in the region.

Thailand    THAILAND
Likewise, in Thailand, the government continues to enable the application of Open Source solutions. But much of this expansion is slow in comparison to other countries. Although the involvement of Thai government agencies including Software Industry Promotion Agency (SIPA) are making policy changes that will expand Linux use.

In the ZDNet UK article Linux Thais up more support, Ingrid Marson provides some useful insight how Thailand is addressing OSS. Nevertheless, today Open Source makes up only a tiny margin of overall software use even among the government agencies.

Japan    JAPAN
Japan's adoption of Linux is complicated by matters not only of localization challenges, but also cultural approaches. Although there is some private sector growth, even with strong external support the Japanese I.T. leadership remains somewhat passive in regards to adoption.

In a very insightful article, Lyle Saxon shares his thoughts regarding Japan's issues with faster adoption and growth. Japan remains somewhat sluggish in terms of adoption when compared to other nations in the region.

S. Korea    KOREA
In Korea the public sector adoption is definitely growing with major successes. One example is The Ministry of Information and Communication's (MIC) decision to begin building an Open Source "city."

Kim Tae-gyu reports for The Korea Times:
MIC revealed the scheme of building up the city and university, which will operate as test beds for the open-source programs... toward which end the ministry earmarked 4.1 billion won for this year alone.
That is over $4 million US dollars per year for this one project alone. It is a signifier of how serious Open Source initiatives are being taken by the governance.

But there are many reasons behind South Korea's public sector migrations to Linux. One of which is the bottom line. From a Linux Insider report:
South Korea will likely accelerate its move toward adopting the Linux computer operating system to replace Microsoft's Windows 98 in the public sector.
Why? The answer lies in the body of the excellent article:
Microsoft's decision to stop offering updated anti-virus patches will leave many South Korean users of the outdated Windows operating system vulnerable to threats of hacking and malicious codes.

According to industry data, Windows 98 runs on around 13 percent of the total 27 million personal computers in South Korea, most of which are being used at government agencies.
As odd as it may seem, Korea is seeing expansive public sector Linux growth as a result of Microsoft's product support failure. Although a bit ironic, this is apparently quite true. However, not all of the growth in Korea is so overt. Instead, each day through local seminars and LUG meetings, thousands of Koreans share the power and benefits of Linux related projects.

Much of this grass roots effort to promote and drive new Linux initiatives begins with the universities like Korea University in Seoul and is a result of the highly social and interactive Korean culture. LUGs are an incredibly vital part of the growth of South Korean Linux adoption. The Korea LUG is preparing for its 10th seminar, and you can get more details from: Korea LUG

Australia    AUSTRALIA
Across the ocean in Australia, I also notice the rather poignant expansion of Linux in the public sector. Rodney Gedda, for a recent Computer World article titled: Big Wi-Fi network in Australia uses open-source reports:
If securely deploying
10,000 wireless access points across 1,700 locations in five months
to create what may be one of the largest enterprise Wi-Fi network
sounds like a challenge, Victoria's Department of Education (DET) in
Australia took it all in stride.
In general, although numerically Linux adoption has plenty of room to grow down under, major strides are being made regarding the acceptance of Linux and Open Source, especially within the government sectors.

A recent report by the Australian House Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs included recommendations "consistent with those requested by the Australian Open Source Industry Association (OSIA Limited)." If you're interested in what is happening in the land down under, this excellent (as usual) Groklaw synopsis contains many more details.

New Zealand    NEW ZEALAND
As I reported in my earlier article, in New Zealand adoption is numerically greatest in the government sector, but hidden are the true numbers of adoptions and migrations among the many small businesses.

Jethro Carr, Wellington New Zealand LUG web-master, notes:
Zealand] has many small businesses, and naturally these small
startups are very innovative, and try all the new ideas that are
around. OSS saves them setup costs, and is very attractive to someone
starting almost any kind of business.

Once Novell endorses... government departments tend to take notice and think
"hey, this Linux stuff is being done by Novell. It must be
good.". IBM is also doing their bit, and naturally their name also helps make Linux more respected
and helps push it to the mainstream. And names like Weta Digital are helping to make OSS a house-hold word.
This seems to be an accurate depiction across the entire New Zealand, as Andrew Hill, president of Treshna Enterprises, in Christchurch New Zealand, verifies what he sees in his region:
The areas we are using Linux is in servers, the desktop, kiosks and more often now in embedded systems.  If you visit a new client, you'll often find that they already are running Linux on their servers. It's  reasonably common.
Peter Harrison, head of The New Zealand Open Source Society, a nonprofit organization to protect, advocate, and advance OSS, provides a very useful glimpse into two factors. The first is an honest assessment of the work still to be done. The second, as he puts it well, has to do with understanding and appreciating what Linux has already done.

Peter shares:
To be honest Linux and OSS have not cracked market share except in a few areas. You will probably find a Linux box of some kind in most server rooms. ISP's will almost all have significant installs. Telco companies and web hosting companies will also have large installed bases.
However, this misses quite an important impact OSS has had on software worldwide. Linux proved that an operating system on Intel boxes could be reliable and secure. It wasn't until the popularity of Linux became apparent that people suddenly discovered that crashing wasn't a characteristic of the Intel machine.
There is obviously work still to be done but overall Linux growth in this region is quite strong.

A handful of nations are leading a massive, often subtle expansion of Linux here in this region.

Moreover, it is increasingly difficult for other nations to catch-up not only regarding Linux adoption but also regarding overall I.T. leadership. Also, while many announcements of major endeavors are reported each day, the grass roots efforts of the Linux communities and local companies in Asia-Pacific has at least as much impact if not more.

For further research, I strongly recommend the thorough summary of Asia Linux adoption assembled by Frederick Noronha. He is a freelance journalist who has written a very useful summation of Free Software in Asia.

In the document, Frederick offers background regarding OSS in Asia and concludes:
Linux originates from
Finland [Europe]. Red Hat originates from US. Mandrake originates
from France [Europe]. SuSe[Europe] originates from Germany. The only
region left is Asia. I bet you, Asia will be the next hub of
I strongly agree, having heard first hand accounts of Linux adoption in Asia-Pacific. I too believe that a number of the nations here are now poised to become the leaders in OpenSource's future.

Perhaps it is just as important to note that Linux adoption in Asia-Pacific is also being used as an empowerment tool to address major humanitarian needs. Linux is solving problems far beyond Information Technology.

Speaking with Narinder Bhatia, a technology leader for Shiksha India Trust, he shared how Open Source software such as Moodle was providing technology access and coordination in some of India's poorest schools. Shiksha India Trust is part of the significant Confederation of India Industry (CII). The beneficial work of Narinder and his colleagues, is representative of similar positive humanitarian initiatives throughout the world.

The low cost, beneficial licensing, and power of Linux and Open Source is a substantial tool, not only for I.T., but for all of humanity. As a result Linux grows significantly in use across sectors and across nations here in Asia-Pacific.

Mark Rais serves as senior editor for, promotes Open Source to organizations and government leadership in USA, Asia and Africa, and has written a number of Linux books, including Linux for the Rest of Us.

Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds. IBM, PC-DOS, and OS/2 are the registered trademarks or trademarks of International Business Machines. Microsoft, Microsoft Vista, Microsoft Windows are all trademarks or registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation both in the United States and Internationally. All other trademarks or registered trademarks in this opinion piece belong to their respective owners. FINAL RELEASE VERSION