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Peru's president approves open-source bill

The country's government agencies may now buy open-source software.

Alejandro Toledo, president of Peru, signed legislation this week that allows public institutions to consider adopting open-source software, another step forward for the open-software movement. The legislation, which Peru's Congress approved in September, allows government agencies and schools to choose between proprietary software from companies like Microsoft or Oracle, as well as open-source alternatives.

Government agencies have been some of the largest and most influential purchasers of open-source software, which can cost less to buy and manage, according to advocates. Brazil, South Korea and other national governments believe the open-source movement could help their domestic software industries.

Still, it's an uphill climb. The city of Munich has voted to convert 14,000 desktops from Microsoft Windows to Linux, but the project has been delayed until 2006. Other government agencies have also moved slower than originally planned.

While the move will open commercial-software providers to competition, Peru and other parts of South America have also been hotbeds of piracy. More than half the software in some countries is illegal, according to statistics from the Business Software Alliance.