If Software Is Funded from a Public Source for Governments, Its Code Should Be Open Source

Posted on: Sun, 2019-02-10 - 12:06 By: admin

If Software Is Funded from a Public Source for Governments, Its Code Should Be Open Source

If we as citizens pay for it, we should be able to use it.

Perhaps because many free software coders have been outsiders and rebels, less attention is paid to the use of open source in government departments than in other contexts. But it's an important battleground, not least because there are special dynamics at play and lots of good reasons to require open-source software. It's unfortunate that the most famous attempt to convert a government IT system from proprietary code to open source—the city of Munich—proved such a difficult experience. Although last year saw a decision to move back to Windows, that seems to be more a failure of IT management, than of the code itself. Moreover, it's worth remembering that the Munich project began back in 2003, when it was a trailblazer. Today, there are dozens of large-scale migrations, as TechRepublic reports:

Most notable is perhaps the French Gendarmerie, the country's police force, which has switched 70,000 PCs to Gendbuntu, a custom version of the Linux-based OS Ubuntu. In the same country 15 French ministries have made the switch to using LibreOffice, as has the Dutch Ministry of Defence, while the Italian Ministry of Defence will switch more than 100,000 desktops from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice by 2020 and 25,000 PCs at hospitals in Copenhagen will move from Office to LibreOffice.

More are coming through all the time. The Municipality of Tirana, the biggest in Albania, has just announced it is moving thousands of desktops to LibreOffice, and nearly 80% of the city of Barcelona's IT investment this year will be in open source.

One factor driving this uptake by innovative government departments is the potential to cut costs by avoiding constant upgrade fees. But it's important not to overstate the "free as in beer" element here. All major software projects have associated costs of implementation and support. Departments choosing free software simply because they believe it will save lots of money in obvious ways are likely to be disappointed, and that will be bad for open source's reputation and future projects.

And paying for support by a government is not a bad thing at all. Unlike some expensive proprietary software where foreign consultants are often brought in, with open source software can have 100% of the expense going to local support companies who create employment and pay taxes locally. For many governments, the saving on license fees can mean them being able to pay even more for local support and skills development if need be. For local support companies having full access to the source code means being able to fully understand it to solve support problems and even fix it if need be. Open source is NOT purely about saving money, especially for governments. Of course, there is no procurement involved (tenders take time and money) and full control is maintained by that government over the applications it uses.

Of course it takes a mindset change, not only for governments but more importantly for their vendors who will resist not being able to drop their boxes for a marked up profit, as they often do not understand the role they can play in providing support services around open source software (of course that support is open then to any vendor to compete to supply).

See https://www.linuxjournal.com/content/if-software-funded-public-source-its-code-should-be-open-source and also some interesting insight into what happened with the famed Munich turnaround at https://www.techrepublic.com/article/linux-to-windows-10-why-did-munich-switch-and-why-does-it-matter/ (hint: some of the issues could be due to poor and fragmented support).

#FOSS #opensource #government


If Software Is Funded from a Public Source, Its Code Should Be Open Source | Linux Journal
If we pay for it, we should be able to use it. Perhaps because many free software coders have been outsiders and rebels, less attention is paid to the use of open source in government departments than in other contexts. But it's an important battleground, not least because there are special dynamics at ...
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