Open source tour of Europe: Romania


To coincide with EURO 2008, I’m embarking on a virtual European tour, taking a quick look at open source policies and deployment projects in the 16 nations that are competing in the tournament.

Sounds like I was fortunate to miss Romania’s borefest with France and although the draw is a good result for Romania, the country is likely to struggle to progress beyond the group stages.

When it comes to open source adoption, Romania is also well behind some of it European neighbours, although given the socio-political changes that have taken place in Eastern Europe in the last 20 years it is no surprise that the maturity of the IT industry in many countries is well behind what we see in Western Europe and the US.

Romania has come along way since the fall of Ceausescu’s government, as this overview of open source adoption indicates, but widespread adoption remains limited due to the market for – or adoption of -personal computers and broadband Internet services still being in its early stages (please see the comments section below for further explanation).

In that regard there is huge opportunity for open source software in countries like Romania to drive local industry. There is vibrant grassroots support for open source in the country, and the ROSI initiative was formed in 2006 to unite local groups and promote open source. ROSI has organized the eLiberatica event, which this year attracted some of the biggest names in the industry to Bucharest.

Key projects:
Despite the grassroots support, large scale open source adoption projects are relatively thin on the ground. An open source library system has been created for managing administration of public libraries and was funded by both the Romanian and Italian governments. Meanwhile eLearning vendor Timsoft has created an open source e-learning project in cooperation with the Politehnica University in Timisoara and the University of Helsinki.

Key vendors:
SocrateOpen is a Romanian ERP/CRM software package based on Compiere.

And another thing:
If Romania isn’t already twinned with Vancouver it probably should be. eLiberata organizers Lucian Savluk and Zak Greant are both based in Vancouver, while the family of Mozilla Messaging CEO, Vancouver resident, and eLiberata speaker this year, David Ascher, hail from North of the Bucharest. This and other great facts can be found here.

As always we welcome your input. If you have examples of open source adoption in Romania that we’ve overlooked, please leave a comment below. For more stops on the European tour, see this post.

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22 comments ↓

#1 451 CAOS Theory » We’re all going on a European tour on 06.10.08 at 4:27 am

[…] C Netherlands Italy Romania […]

#2 daniel on 06.10.08 at 9:24 pm

article is superficial. you have no clue, no idea what you are talking about… i wish i had time to proov it, but i don’t!

#3 Matthew Aslett on 06.11.08 at 1:59 am

Yes the article is superficial. It is meant to provide an overview of publicly referenced projects and links to further reading. I have deliberately tried to find locally-authored information to reference. Clearly there is more going than we are aware of. It is a shame you don’t have time to educate us, we would welcome the input.

#4 FreeSoftNews » Blog Archive » Open source tour of Europe: Romania on 06.10.08 at 10:37 pm

[…] Read more at 451 Caos […]

#5 Buzz on 06.11.08 at 2:37 am

“market for personal computers and broadband Internet services still being in its early stages” ??

wtf ?? dude, have you any idea what you’re talking about ? I’ve talked to a lot of westerners along the years on the net and i’ve always payed considerably less for a broader internet connection than all the americans and english i ever spoken with ! Why is Romania behind, cause we don’t yet bad various services or ports like it happens “in the civilized world” ?…

All my friends have at least 2 computers or a PC and laptop, and no, we’re not very rich. PCs and notebook prices are only slightly higher than in the States.

As for Open Source, to be honest, i’m not sure what the status is here concerning large companies and corporation or simply research projects but at a consumer level open source is very popular, not to mention a lot of small projects started off by enthusiastic programmers. Romania exports a lot brilliant minds you know… Heard of NimbleX ? Yes, one romanian student made that neat Linux distro in his spare time !

This article is more than just superficial, it’s poorly documented! To be honest i’m really not very patriotic and all but you don’t have a clue about what you wrote !

#6 Matthew Aslett on 06.11.08 at 6:00 am

I apologize if I have offended anyone with my comments. I did not intend to suggest that Romania is any way less civilized when it comes to technology adoption, merely that the market is less mature and that adoption rates are currently lower.

Statistics from the CIA World Factbook support this statement: Romania ranked 38th for Internet adoption in 2006 with 5.1m users compared to a population of 22.2m. The most comparable Western European nation by population (Netherlands, 16.1m) had 14.5m Internet users, ranking 21st. Taiwan had 13.2m Internet users out of a population of 22.9m, while Australia had 15.3m Internet users out of a population of 20.6m.

Romania has more Internet users than the likes of Belgium (4.8m), Switzerland (4.4m) and Austria (4.3m) but with populations of just 10.4m, 7.5m and 8.2m, penetration in those countries is much higher.

I also stated that there is “huge opportunity for open source software in countries like Romania to drive local industry” and that there is “vibrant grassroots support for open source in the country”. It is a matter of maturity, not ability.

#7 the the the the the... on 06.11.08 at 9:02 am

Daniel shut up.
As long as you are monopolizing Romania’s opensource scene shut the f*** up.

#8 Nicu on 06.11.08 at 9:02 am

The data from CIA Factbook is old, broadband adoption exploded in the last few years (but I am not aware by about official stats).

#9 Sergiu Dumitriu on 06.11.08 at 3:36 pm

Hello,

I’m a Romanian, so I’d say I have some knowledge of the situation.

1. I’d like to apologize for my fellow romanians that behave so badly. It is something in the romanian way of being, most people provide only negative, destructive feedback, and would rather insult people than add constructive comments. This is one of the two reasons why I don’t read romanian online news.

2. Sorry folks, but it is true that Romania is behind other countries w.r.t. internet usage. Yes, a large part of the young generation has broadband connection and at least 2 computers, but only because you see yourself and your friends in this part, don’t make the mistake of generalizing. Most older people don’t have computers. Most countryside people don’t have computers (or even people in smaller cities). Most non-tech people don’t use computers that often (biology, geography, or philosophy students, for example). So I agree with the current ranking of Romania.
Still, it is true that the quality of the internet offering in major cities has vastly increased in the last couple of years. There are many ISPs that offer megabit(s) connections at fair prices. Unfortunately, the QoS is not that good, with frequent offline periods that can last a few hours.

3. Open Source is something rarely used in companies. At first (10+ years ago) everybody had pirated copies of Windows and Office, but then BSA appeared and slowly things started to change. Companies started either buying licenses, or switching to free products. Currently Windows is still the most used OS, and MS Office is still the preferred office suite. Things are a bit different in the technical companies, where Free Software usage is comparable with proprietary software usage, but IMHO is still on second place. Maybe the one exception is Firefox, but those that use it don’t really know what Open Source is. They use it as a free (as in beer) browser. The fact that MS is trying so hard to prevent piracy is good, because this way people will try to find cheaper solutions. Windows is quite expensive for the average Romanian pocket.

4. In universities, things are bad, too. Most universities that have Computer Science related faculties have a Microsoft Academic Agreement, so they have Windows installed in almost all labs, and use MS Visual Studio for development. Still, Linux is used on most servers, and there are Linux-related courses in most CS faculties (Operating Systems, Computer Networks, Linux Administration). I’d like to emphasize the Iasi Faculty of Computer Science (http://www.info.uaic.ro/) where there are many teachers that promote Open Source and Linux (I’m one of them). In the rest of the faculties (non-CS) things are worse, as most people don’t even know about open source, or the fact that there is something besides Windows. Of course, there are always exceptions, for example in the Targu Mures University of Medicine and Pharmacy, where Marius Marusteri successfully introduced Linux.

5. Regarding IT students/graduates, the situation is mixed. The mainstream goes with Microsoft. Many see MS as the ultimate dream, the place where everybody is happy, rich and successful, and where the best software is made. This is mainly because of the good image Bill Gates has, and because the local MS student representatives do a hell of a good job. The same good-old strategy, brainwashing always works. Yet, there are many linux users, and many contributors to Open Source. Many people write free (as in beer or as in speech) software, and many contribute to existing projects. Perhaps not as many as in other countries, but still there is a beginning.
One more thing I’d like to specify is that the CS faculties are just nearing the decline period seen in other countries, so this is another sign the the IT industry is still young here. If this is a chance to reach maturity in an environment where MS is becoming more and more unpopular, or simply means that CS faculties appeared in a Windows environment, only time will tell.

6. On development, most non-web IT companies work with MS technologies, and are MS certified partners. Web companies prefer to work with PHP, with ASP and Java on the second and third places.

7. There are very few companies producing Free/Open Source software. There are a few branches of major international companies that also produce FLOSS, like IBM, a few companies that provide services around existing FLOSS, and a few smaller companies that actually produce free software. Maybe eLiberatica will have an impact and encourage companies to go the Open Source way, as otherwise the Open Source business models are unknown.

I think that in the next few years the situation will change drastically. Open Source is very appealing because of its reduced cost, Windows will be unafordable for many people once it won’t be that easy to install a pirated copy, companies will see that Open Source as a business model really works in other countries and will adopt such a strategy themselves, MS will probably decline because of its many bad decisions, the Free Culture will go mainstream, Linux distributions will be easier to install and use than Windows, ultraportables will be more popular because of the reduced price and since Windows bloatware won’t fit on them, they will introduce Linux to the world.

#10 MiConDa on 06.11.08 at 4:10 pm

Despite the patriotism, the substance stands: adoption of open source is Romania is far behind the rest of Europe.

I admit that network infrastructure got better, but does not mean that if we are IT guys and our friends as well, everybody in Romania got connected to Internet. The comparison is for rate of adoption: connected people versus country population.

Main reasons that Open Source is not adopted are, in the first place, the inexistent presence of Open Source in the education system, and, secondly, the IT industry is in majority controlled by the big corporates, pure local industry has no big force yet.

As the educational system does not produce Open Source based knowledge, for the companies is very hard to sustain trainings for Linux when 99% of the workforce come familiar with Windows and nothing about Linux. However, applications such Firefox, OpenOffice get more and more in, being available for Windows as well.

Regarding the Open Source projects in Romania, I cannot tell that such type of project is bound to a country. There are many projects with big involvement of Romanians.

ROSDEV is an event organized by the Romanian Open Source developers (Romanian site, but Google can help translate). There is a page with a listing of some projects.

Projects like OPENSER or YATE are used worldwide and they are leaded by Romanians.

#11 Matthew Aslett on 06.12.08 at 3:26 am

Thanks Sergiu and MiConDa for taking the time to explain your views. We really appreciate the input and the value of your experience. Clearly there are a variety of factors in play and I was guilty of over-simplifying the situation. It isd also obvious that there is a lot of passionate support for open source and the opportunities are there for further adoption.

#12 MiConDa on 06.12.08 at 5:38 am

I guess I started to write before Sergiu’s post was in place, as I was repeating some of his opinions. But I am glad there are common views of the things here, from different places in Romania.

Within the communities it is lot of passion, but will take time to get into decisional layers at country level. I hope eLiberatica and ROSDEV will speed up a bit, bringing more in the light the Open Source and the benefits.

#13 mariuz on 06.13.08 at 2:50 am

http://mapopa.blogspot.com/2008/05/list-of-romanian-linuxoss-sites.html

#14 Matthew Aslett on 06.13.08 at 3:37 am

Great, thanks Mariuz. As you’ll see from the
other posts in this series, I was concerned specifically at deployment projects, rather than development projects, which is why I didn’t mention some of the projects and developers already noted in the comments. Still, it’s useful to see them all listed in one place.

#15 Bogadn on 06.14.08 at 2:09 am

I just want to explain something here. Many software dev companies in Romania are profiled on MS dev because the local market and small companies require it. Why would a Software development company profile itself to develop software for Linux/Unix platform when the majority of medium/small companies come with projects based on MS platform? Because you cannot earn a living as a software dev company by ignoring 90% of the projects you receive because they are on MS platform. Of course you can opt to develop on all platforms, but then how can you sell your software? Give it free under GPL and offer support? Buy QT and then you can sell? If you wish to go out on the market with a software, will you port it to all platforms? Write it in Java? There are many questions with difficult answers, but the major software companies of the world give us a bit of answer. Develop a software for the platform that is being used by the majority of people on which segment of market you belong to, if it catches on you then port it. But in a country where most of the home users still have unlicensed copies of commercial software, what makes you think that they won`t steal your software too? It`s tricky here, and the only way to go is by a strict legislation and support from the government.

#16 Matthew Aslett on 06.14.08 at 2:55 am

Great points Bogadn, thanks for the info. Russia is a good example of where the government has used open source as a weapon to battle piracy in schools. As you say, it probably takes an interventionist stance like that to make a difference.

#17 Sergiu Dumitriu on 06.14.08 at 5:51 pm

It is wrong to say that “customers want MS-based products” and there’s nothing you can do about it. Few customers really *want* that, most of the times it is the lack of a FLOSS medium, market and awareness that makes the client ask for a Windows/ASP product.

Why, is there there something else besides Windows? Linux? I heard it is geeky, hard and crappy. This commercial says that the new Windows is better and faster than ever, how can that commercial be wrong? Look, I Got The Facts, and Windows Vista IS better. Look, this brochure says that ASP is great, so I want it.

This is the kind of mentality the client has. The client doesn’t *need* proprietary solutions, the client *believes* the crap he sees around him. He makes an uniformed request on an aspect he should not care about. The developers don’t know how to sell a product, or how to negotiate a contract. Ideally, unless there are some hard requirements on the development platform, the developers propose the development technologies (with strong and valid arguments, maybe several options with different pros and cons), and the client only agrees with that. You never let the client decide the platform, only the features. One thing students learn in the Software Engineering class at my faculty is that the client is stupid and uninformed, doesn’t know what he wants, and most of the times not even what he needs; so it is the role of the development side to help the customer determine his exact “needs” (features), polished by his “wants” (feature customization/UI/design…), and then inform him about the best way to accomplish those features (the platform).

But, the software development market is still young in Romania. There are a few good companies, and exceptionally few strong companies. The rest of them are just trying to make a living, doing small and crappy projects for small and uninformed clients, so why should they care about what is the good thing to do. They still have a short-term self-profit vision.

Here, you sold the product, you got the money, who cares what happens afterward. In other places, you know that a crappy product will make the client unhappy, and he will not make any further deals with you, will create bad publicity, and next time will chose and advice others to chose the company that already started having a good reputation because its customers are really happy about the results. You sell three bad products, that’s it. You sell two good projects, you will probably sell more. You sell one excellent project, you will definitely have requests for more.

#18 david solomon on 06.18.08 at 7:14 am

I feel all you stated is a bit more based on exaggeration Open Computer however was some great way to remove piracy !

#19 stanny on 07.03.08 at 4:46 am

Just an information:

Starting with 2008, APAL Informatique from Bucarest / Romania (www.apal.ro) became Openbravo partner and is proposing services around Openbravo ERP. They completed Romanian translation completing Raul Moldovan work on accounting schema.

So now, Romanians can download and install Openbravo ERP, completely localized for Romania. (www.openbravo.com)

#20 451 CAOS Theory » Open source champions of Europe on 07.30.08 at 4:22 pm

[…] C As was the case with the football, Group C saw three European heavyweights drawn together. Romania was always likely to suffer by comparison despite a lot of grassroots interest and emerging […]

#21 451 CAOS Theory » On open source and piracy on 08.13.08 at 5:13 pm

[…] Additionally on our recent virtual tour of Europe we saw how piracy was seen as a barrier to further adoption of open source in countries like Greece and Romania. […]

#22 Computer Service on 06.19.09 at 12:57 am

The data from CIA Factbook is old, yes that is true