Friday, February 18, 2011

Irish local government says open source software not just for "sandal-wearers"

According to today's Irish Times, the Local Government Computer Services Board is moving towards open source software:
THE LOCAL Government Computer Service Board, a flagship Microsoft client, is moving to open-source software after nearly 10 years of allegiance.

The public sector body provides shared ICT services to local government and was a pioneering exponent of SharePoint, the Microsoft web-based product that is used as an intranet by many of the country’s 33 councils.

In 2001, the board signed a landmark €10 million contract with Microsoft, licensing end-to-end software from desktop to database for use across local government. It 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 Microsoft.

A number of factors have convinced Willoughby that the time is right to make the move, not least the fact that the computer service board has seen a 15-20 per cent cut in its IT spend and must make funds go further.
Interestingly, Willoughby also states that data portability was a factor in the decision - "we don’t want our data to be stuck in old infrastructure where we have to pay somebody to get it out".

The relevant request for information is available on eTenders.

The Local Government Computer Services also has a blog on open source software, which includes presentations from a recent local authority forum discussing issues associated with a move to open source.

For background on the relatively slow takeup of open source within the Irish government see this 2008 article from Pearse Ryan and Andy Harbison (PDF).


  1. Interesting.

    They will need to carefully consider how to tender for this software, since the tone of the report is that the LGCSB wants to move away from MS rather than focusing on the technical, functional and contractual basis of the tender. Who is to say at this point that MS could not meet the requirements?

    In the past government procurement of software was seen as being biased in favour of proprietary software. It will be interesting if this tender represents a tendency to be biased in favour of OSS!


  2. Open source software is currently the norm among start-ups.