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Open source infiltrates government IT worldwide

Jim Romeo | Jan. 4, 2008
Linux and Open Source solutions are growing. The growth is not just within commercial enterprises.

SAN FRANCISCO, 4 JANUARY 2008 - Linux and Open Source solutions are growing. The growth is not just within commercial enterprises. It is also within state, local and federal governments, within the United States and abroad.

To get a sense of this trend looking forward, we spoke to two persons engaged in developing Open Source solutions for the public sector: Mark Taylor, President of The Open Source Consortium, whose tag line is "Bringing Free and Open Source Software to the Public Sector," and John Weathersby, founder and executive director of the Open Source Software Institute (OSSI), a U.S.-based non-profit organization whose mission is to promote adoption of Open Source software solutions within government IT environments.

LinuxWorld: The city of Munich, Germany has converted to Open Source Software for their operating system. Can you comment on this conversion and discuss any other public sector entities who are doing the same?

Mark Taylor: The Munich migration is the largest public sector complete migration in Europe. Approximate size is 16,000 users, 14,000 desktops, 300 pieces of software including 170 business applications.

It is a complete migration, both server-side and desktop side. The server-side is built around Open LDAP and Samba. The desktop, around Debian and KDE.

The migration has now reached the halfway stage, and is due to complete in 2009. 5000 workstations are running Open Source on top of Microsoft Windows, 660 have taken the next step to Linux, and almost a third of all users are now trained to use Open Source.

Public sector authorities all over Europe are engaging in partial or complete migrations. To name merely a few: UK - Carmathenshire, Bridgend, Powys, Wrexham, Hertforshire. Germany - Munich, Schwäbisch Hall, Lower Saxony and Goettingen, Vienna; Spain - Extremadura, Andalucia; France - French parliament, French National Assembly, Paris, Arles; Italy - Rome, Cremona.

According to an EU-funded study, half of local government authorities already use at least some Open Source. An additional 29 percent do not explicitly report using it, but mention Open Source software (Linux, MySQL, Apache) by name when asked for programs they have implemented.

While many public administrations use "some" Open Source, very few use it exclusively or even as dominant software. Partial use on servers is the most common scenario (40 percent) followed by partial use on desktops (16 percent). 20 percent report experiments through pilot projects. This study is now a few years old and uptake has continued to accelerate since then.

In short, it is happening everywhere, and even Microsoft playing King Canute in the UK is only slowing the project down.

LinuxWorld: Can you talk about local governments. What has been their interest in Open Source, and what is the prospect of open source becoming their primary platform? What is behind your reasoning?


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