In a strategic move that underscores its commitment to technological advancement and cybersecurity, Türkiye has revealed an ambitious road map for the integration of open-source software across all of its public institutions.
A decree, signed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan last week, aims to harness the power of open-source solutions, leading to cost savings in information technology expenditures, diminishing reliance on external software vendors and enhanced cybersecurity.
As Türkiye charts the transformative course, it joins a global movement recognizing the pivotal role of open-source software in fostering innovation and ensuring digital sovereignty.
Public institutions that do not utilize open-source software will be required to explain their stance, a move that demonstrates the gravity with which the issue is being dealt with and highlights the comprehensive preparations being made at a mobilization level.
In accordance with the template announced on the official website of the Presidency's Digital Transformation Office (www.cbddo.gov.tr) and the "Guide for Transitioning to Open-Source Software," all relevant institutions will need to comply and submit their transition plans within a period of nine months.
The software sector's representatives, as recommended by the Software Council of the Union of Chambers and Commodity Exchanges of Türkiye (TOBB), have been advocating for the adoption of open-source software, making this move by public institutions a pivotal step.
The presidential decree, aligned with the sector's expectations, not only offers numerous domestic software companies significant market opportunities but also brings an end to the chronic software licensing payments within the public sector.
In the new drive, solutions with open-source equivalents will be preferred. This development is generating enthusiasm among domestic software companies and professional organizations working in cloud computing, digital transformation, applications and cybersecurity.
The government plans to take all the necessary measures to allocate the required financial resources and workforce for the activities outlined in the report. The Presidency of Strategy and Budget will consider the relevant reports in budget planning and allocation decisions for the IT infrastructure of public institutions and organizations, prioritizing budget requests for these purposes.
For procurement of goods and services involving software, open-source alternatives will be preferred over commercially licensed software, except where technically or economically infeasible. Project proposal forms submitted to the Presidency of Strategy and Budget for such fund requests must provide detailed technical and economic justifications for not opting for open-source alternatives over commercially licensed software.
Highlighting the significance of open-source software as the cornerstone of transformation in the public sector, Aslan Doğan, CEO of Etiya, emphasized the importance of supporting companies developing open-source code and addressing the need for skilled personnel.
"The widespread use of open-source software in our country, coupled with the development and availability of skilled developers/support workforce, signify sustainable solutions. A product you cannot create will undoubtedly come with risks. As this decree essentially encompasses the development of open-source software and the cultivation of a qualified workforce, it means our country will be a part of a massive global ecosystem. In this context, the removal of the most significant barrier to transitioning to open-source software is achieved,” said Doğan.
He expressed a belief that the potential this ecosystem offers to their industry will be more valuable than the efficiency it will bring to the public sector.
“If approached with a holistic strategy, numerous new ventures can sprout in this ecosystem, rapidly globalizing within the existing ecosystem," Doğan added.
Facing the growing dominance of Chinese companies in the telecommunications sector, the United States is responding with both restrictions and an open-source software initiative.
To counter the influence of Chinese companies in the 5G sector, the U.S. is rallying around the Open Network Foundation (ONF) platform, erecting digital barriers around China through strategic bans. Rather than engaging in direct confrontation with China, the U.S. is rallying the world around open-source software to combat the issue.
One of Türkiye’s leading telecommunications and technology companies, Türk Telekom’s subsidiary Argela, through its establishment Netsia, stands as a robust member of this alliance.
Netsia is developing critical operating systems and applications using open-source software. Fundamentally supporting open-source software, the company is poised to revolutionize the telecommunications sector.
The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is a nonprofit consortium led by operators. It employs an open-source business model, aiming to encourage network creation through Software-Defined Networking (SDN), standardizing the OpenFlow protocol and related technologies. The initiative seeks to accelerate innovation through simple software changes in telecommunications networks, wireless networks, data centers and other networking domains.
As of June 2020, the ONF had over 200 member companies, including network equipment vendors, semiconductor companies, computer companies, software firms, telecom service providers, hyperscale data center operators and enterprises.
As the world embraces the digital age, even the control panels of cutting-edge fighter jets are being powered by lines of code that anyone can inspect, modify and improve upon.
The unfolding story of open-source's influence stretches beyond the code itself, delving into the realm of cybersecurity, strategic decision-making, and the intricate dance between technology and human expertise.
Amid these developments, Can Sobutay, the general manager of Infrasis Cyber Engineering, sheds light on the role open-source software plays in safeguarding critical systems, encouraging innovation and fostering a new era of digital resilience.
Sobutay drew upon the example of fighter jets, stating: "We can define two components of cybersecurity as visibility and control. In commercial software, we mostly lack the chance to talk about visibility due to the absence of access to the source code. On the other hand, it's important to note that open-source software is not equivalent to free software. For instance, many freely available software solutions restrict access to their source code, while access to the source code of numerous commercial and even some cybersecurity software is possible.”
The ultimate goal here, he says, is to fully understand what critical data is accessed or how software with critical functions operates.
“For instance, in the case of the F-35 project we were involved in, we had requested access to the aircraft's source code for an extended period. This underscores the importance of open-source software, even in a fighter jet," Sobutay noted.
Highlighting the importance of skilled human resources accompanying open-source software, Sobutay emphasized that overlooking the dimension of a qualified workforce rather than the open-source architecture could result in a negative experience.
“However, if this is not met with a competent and substantial human resources approach, it creates a situation with serious risks, both in terms of management and cybersecurity. The key understanding here should be that when transitioning from commercial software to open-source alternatives, one should consider not only potential savings but also the potential increase in other costs and how to manage them,” he noted.
“Of course, when managed correctly, the establishment and retention of such qualified human resources would bring significant benefits to both organizations and our country.”
Sobutay also highlighted that the Russia-Ukraine conflict underscores the importance of completing nationwide cloud transformation.
To establish an independent cloud infrastructure, he says it is essential to have a strategy that employs human resources experienced in open-source code.
“Therefore, I believe that if the spread of open-source software, which started with conventional software, is properly managed and supported at global standards, it will inevitably result in a cloud brand fully nurtured within the country," said Sobutay.