Govt OSS migration will need skills

By   |  August 28, 2007

Governments looking to migrate to open source software (OSS) will need to ramp up their internal skills base, according to Gartner analyst Andrea Di Maio.

Di Maio, speaking at the Gartner Symposium in Cape Town on Tuesday, also said that migrating to open source software should be done in a phased manner, moving entire groups of users to open source software at a time.

Di Maio said that over time organisations had become reliant on external skills in their operations as they moved through packaged software and application service providers. Moving to open source software would reverse that trend, he said.

Di Maio said that one of the primary challenges for governments moving to open source would be the need to re-instate internal skills. “In moving to open source you can’t rely on external skills and [before the move] you will need to assess whether you will be able to ramp up the the required level.”

A recent survey by Gartner found that the growth of open source software in organisations led not to a decline in proprietary software – in fact proprietary software use continued to grow – but to a reduction in internally-developed software, Di Maio said.

“Open source software is often not an alternative to proprietary software [in organisations] but is an alternative to custom built software, he said.

Di Maio said that one of the chief reasons cited by governments for moving to open source software was because they wanted to comply with open standards. In contrast political pressure played far less of a role in the decision to switch to OSS, according to the survey.

One of the issues that Di Maio said he believed was important in the decision making process around open source software – although it didn’t appear very high on the survey – was that with open source software government department could very often download and test new open source software without needing to go to tender processes.

“The single most important factor, I believe, is that open source software allows users to stay below the public tender threshold,” he said. Once they had decided on the software to use they could then buy a few licences without public processes.

Asked how organisations and governments should plan their migration to OSS, Di Maio said that it should be phased, but not in the usual sense. “Definitely a phased approach, but not like Munich where users are moved to OpenOffice.org and then to Linux.

“Rather move chunks of users [with similar roles] across to open source. Then communicate to other what will happemn when they are moved,” said Di Maio.

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