GeM: Open Source’s Cinderella Journey

In a statement this year PM Narendra Modi called upon states to use the GeM platform — Government e-Marketplace, to reduce corruption and increase transparency in Government procurement. He said the use of technologies such as BHIM and Aadhaar would result in significant savings for the states. Not only for the states but the government believes that private companies should also manage GeM, namely Managed Service Providers (MSPs) who will manage GeM’s end-user system and/or its IT infrastructure. This interested the major e-commerce businesses also like Amazon and Flipkart to handle the purchases.

Earlier this year, the Union Cabinet granted its approval for winding up of the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D) by October 31, which launched the GeM platform. It would be replaced by GeM special purpose vehicle. According to information sourced from the GeM portal, there are 2,258 buyers listed on the platform. There are 5,455 sellers and 174 service providers enrolled with the marketplace. Through the portal, the government would be able to consolidate its requirements across the board and be able to seek better offers from vendors involving bulk purchases. But when we talk about vendors like Microsoft, the case is different.

Recently confirmed by many media publications, Microsoft has said in a letter to the government that, “The RFP has allocated 50 out of 150 marks to solutions that are built using open source software only; this means that if a bidder does not use open source product only then it would be impossible for such a bidder to achieve the 65 percent qualification marks in solution evaluation and would then automatically become technically disqualified.”

The letter by Microsoft was written to several ministries and government departments, including the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Commerce.

Microsoft has raised concerns over the government putting its weight behind open source software in its recent request for proposal to appoint a managed service provider for its e-marketplace (GeM).

In March 2015, the government adopted this open source software policy, which made it mandatory for all software applications and services of the government be built using open source software.

“Government organizations shall ensure compliance with this requirement and decide by comparing both OSS (open source software) and CSS (closed source software) options with respect to capability, strategic control, scalability, security, lifetime costs and support requirements,” the policy states.

Departments opting for closed source software over open source technology have to justify the choice, according to the policy.

Red Hat partner; Mukul Mahajan, Director, Tetra information Services using open source solutions once talking to DQ Channels said, “Indian Government open source policy is a step to the right direction, as with massive scale of IT adoption happening  in India, Open source provides best cost versus performance benefits”.

“If adopted in right intent, it will open up employment opportunities for India IT companies. Also for a large country like India, where number of users are huge, it makes mass adoption of IT possible in cost effective manner”, added Mukul.

GeM is a platform developed by the procurement arm of the government, the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals (DGS&D), under the Ministry of Commerce. It was launched in August 2016.

The marketplace was envisioned as an online portal on the lines of Flipkart or Amazon, which will enable vendors and government buyers to directly communicate with each other.

Several countries in the European Union have started preferring the use of open source over proprietary software.

Closer home, the Unique Identification Authority of India or Aadhaar project has been developed primarily on open source, as is the goods and services tax network, the IT backbone of the GST.

The online marketplace

PM Modi’s government is in the process of making government departments buy all their goods and services from a single platform. Following in the footsteps of advanced economies Worldwide, the nation is in the process of making government departments buy all their goods and services from the platform, Government e-Market (GeM).

GeM Facts

  • GeM is a platform developed by the Directorate General of Supplies and Disposals in August 2016, where vendors and government buyers can directly communicate with each other, avoiding additional costs and tedious paperwork.

 

  • Government buyers include representatives of the Centre, State, Universities, PSUs and Government Autonomous bodies. The sellers include anyone willing to do business with the government.

 

  • The GeM was set up to ensure transparency by disclosing who bought what from where and by showcasing the competition between the sellers.
  • It also aims to support the Make In India scheme where vendors have access to the largest customer base.

 

  • Between August 2016 and April 2017, the GeM has recorded more than Rs 450 crore in total sales. It aims to record sales of Rs 5 lakh crore annually in the future.

 

  • From buying ball point pens in bulk to hiring cars, a variety of products and services are available on the GeM at subsidised rates. The buyers can choose from different sellers and post a bid on the portal stating their requirement. Only the sellers registered with the GeM can take up the orders. They can register themselves by giving their Aadhaar details and by paying a fee, which serves as revenue for the marketplace. The order can then be taken up and the delivery date and cost will be stated.

 

  • Only e-payments can take place in the GeM. As of now, the buyer pays via the State Bank MOPS (Multi Option Payment System) and PFMS (Public Financial Management System).
  • State Bank MOPS is an online payment gateway which lets the buyer pay via NetBanking only if they have a State Bank of India (and/or their associate banks’) account. Debit and/or credit cards can also be used to make payments. PFMS is used by government agencies to directly pay the seller by putting money in their account.

 

  • Purchases up to Rs. 50,000 are allowed on GeM. As of now, GeM is on the process of speeding up payments to vendors.

 

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