Courtesy of The Open Source Observatory and Repository for European public administrations (OSOR)
Ireland’s Local Government Computer Service Board (LGCSB) is moving to open source software in a move forecast to have major migration ramifications, it was announced on 18 February 2011.
The LGCSB is a public sector body that provides shared ICT services to local government and it was a pioneering exponent of a proprietary web-based product that is used as an intranet by many of Ireland’s 33 councils. In fact, in 2001, the LGCSB signed a landmark €10 million contract with the proprietor, licensing end-to-end software from desktop to database for use across local government.
The contract was renewed in 2005, but only after assistant director Tim Willoughby looked at the open source alternatives. At the time he expressed a reluctance to entrust local government IT platforms to a “sandal-wearing” community, preferring the level of support offered by the proprietor.
A number of factors have convinced Willoughby that the time is now right to make the move to open source, not least the fact that the computer service board has seen a 15-20 % cut in its IT budget and must make funds go further. The proprietor’s Software Assurance scheme was a factor, Willoughby said. “It requires an annual payment of 29 % of the original licence cost. We can’t afford it. The other reason is that we don’t want our data to be stuck in old infrastructure where we have to pay somebody to get it out.”
Willoughby is betting that open source will better prepare local government for a future that will involve social media, the semantic web and web 3.0 technologies.
“We want to approach them with open technologies and open standards. We want an open source view of the world. We are all working with more loosely coupled environments where you have to be able to take one component out and replace it with another from another vendor.”
Although the last enterprise agreement with the proprietor ended in 2009, the board is not intending to ‘rip and replace’ existing software. It will run down its use over the next four or five years as support diminishes. Any new IT projects will use open source software, a process already under way. A number of authorities are looking to tie in social media with their websites; others are planning alternative document management systems.
Willoughby says the strategy fits in with a sea change in the tech sector as the number of people using and supporting open source reaches a tipping point. This has yet to happen in Ireland but Willoughby believes that the LGCSB’s decision could initiate mass migration.
“If we start creating the demand and priming the pump the supply will be there. We believe the time is right and companies are coming out with the support capabilities. There is now a value proposition for small firms to come in and support it.”
A request for information from the LGCSB was issued on the Irish Government’s eTenders procurement website on 14 February 2011. The plan is to work with Enterprise Ireland, the Government agency responsible for supporting Irish businesses, and meet companies that can deliver the solutions and support that local government will need.
The migration comes at a time when the LGCSB is merging with the Local Government Management Services Board to form the Local Government Management Agency as part of the reduction in public sector agencies.
* Original news article – by Ian Campbell in the Irish Times
* Local Government Computer Service Board
* Enterprise Ireland
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