The growing commitment of government authorities and major organisations to free software has worked wonders to improve its visibility and how it is perceived, proof of which can often be seen in the media.
Moreover, many experts and analysts consider free software to have the potential to drive economic development worldwide and in Europe in particular. For example, Gartner has said: "Free software is a catalyst that will restructure the industry, producing higher quality software at a lower cost".
By presenting a series of implementation cases, this module attempts to confirm the validity of the free software model as an alternative to proprietary software in diverse regions, contexts and economic sectors.
The impetus given by the Junta of Extremadura to free software in diverse areas of the public sector, particularly in education (with the LinEx distribution as its standard), was the first of these cases. Similarly, though on a much larger scale, we looked at the efforts of the Federal Government of Brazil to bridge the digital gap, a policy in which free software has played a crucial role. The cases of free software implementation in Extremadura and Brazil, despite their obvious geographical differences, have many points in common, including their motivation, and have served and continue to serve as an example to other governments and administrative agencies wishing to promote the development of free software in their respective areas of influence.
In all events, the policies introduced in both Extremadura and Brazil reveal a long-term commitment to stimulating the information society on the basis of free software. The existence of a project with mid- to long-term aims is a basic feature that sets apart sound free software initiatives with guarantees of success.
Turning to the private sector, the Sun Microsystems case study shows how a large company with a consolidated position and all that comes with it has managed to uncover new opportunities for technology and business development in free software. Nonetheless, it should be remembered here that the vast majority of free software development projects fail, even with business backing. One of the main reasons for the success of Sun and its projects lies in its ability to define a software development methodology that is compatible with the business and technological strategy of the organisation.
Lastly, Cometa Technologies shows us how free software can form the basis of a valid business model and an alternative to proprietary software, offering considerable growth potential for an SME with a local base, with the benefits of participating in the free software community and the use of free software tools and solutions whose quality has been confirmed across the world.