updated 4/7/2006 1:22:11 PM ET 2006-04-07T17:22:11

The Norwegian government said Friday it will increase its use of freely shared, open-source software to reduce its dependency on large computer companies like Microsoft Corp.

“It should no longer be necessary to use software from the major, international computer companies to gain access to electronic information in the public sector,” the government said in a statement. “Now that dependency will be broken.”

(MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The Ministry of Government Administration and Reform said measures to increase use of open-source programs include a specialist panel to set standards for public information.

The government statement said the project will also set standards to allow various operating systems to communicate with one another.

Several countries, including Brazil, China, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea, have been actively moving toward open-source alternatives.

Proponents say open source results in quicker development of software because vast numbers of people can study, update and adapt programs without having to pay licensing fees.

The Linux operating system and the Mozilla Web browsers, led by Firefox, are examples of free open-source technology that users can copy, modify and redistribute. Microsoft’s Windows operating system and its Internet Explorer browser are proprietary, meaning the blueprints behind them are closely guarded, though IE is distributed without charge.

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