[nSLUG] local ns e-govt and oss???

M Taylor mctylr at privacy.nb.ca
Thu Feb 17 15:47:20 AST 2005

On Thu, Feb 17, 2005 at 06:40:24AM -0400, Bob Ashley wrote:
> NSLUG Pundits,
> I'm doing a policy paper which will explore the idea of municipal 
> egovernment in NS looking at open source software (oss), perhaps as a 
> pilot project. If report looks plausible, I'll submit it to Service Nova 
> Scotia and Municipal Relations and Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.
> Any opinions, comments, guffaws, sneers, cheers?

The first thing to realise is the that the upfront license fees are non
issues (in my experience), it is the long term maintance part of the lifecycle
that concerns you. 

What benefits I've seen are 
 a) preventing vendor/contract lock-in - governments dpt/agencies always seem
        to be being ripped off by vendors, partly this is caused by the locked-in
        effect (it is or is preceived too expensive to migrate) 

 b) lack of time/effort spent doing procurement of software and upgrades, and lack of
    having to audit / or enforce license audit results (remove unlicensed software,
    buy more licenses to cover Office on the intern's PC)

 c) freedom of in-house IT staff to do more, "empowering" IT staff rather than
        rely upon contractors or vendors continuiously.

The issues:
 a) Overly cautious managers afraid of going with non "corporate standard" solutions.
     This hearlds back to the "no one ever got fired for buying IBM"
     school of thought from weak management. In reality, private sector simply 
     wants results.

 b) In-house staff are often Microsoft (or other legacy software) trained and
     do not have a culture of change / adapting to new systems/ software.

I think it is entirely possible for a quality IT manager especially if the current
staff is not afraid (feels more valued/empowered, thinks it will make their lives 
easier) to pull it off, but I wouldn't want to try with a new or weak IT manager. 

The best way to implment is by small stages. I've heard of small office "unofficial"
success stories of curing a chronic problem by introducing a FOSS solution like
replacing a underpowered IIS server with Linux on the same hardware running Apache,
squid (what seems like faster Internet access for free!). This helps to gain
confident in OSS without spending money, and that envoke confident in non
technical management.

IMHO the concerns are "soft-skill" issues, not technical differences.


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