Gauteng government committed to open source software

By   |  November 24, 2003

\”Government is committed to finding ways for small [open source] companies to grow and sustain their development,\” Mike Roussos, CEO of the Government Shared Services Centre(GSSC) said last week. Roussos was speaking at a seminar on transforming the public sector through IT.

GSSC is a South African Gauteng provincial government initiative that aims to centralise administrative and operational services in the public sector.

Livingstone Chilwane, chief information officer (CIO) of GSSC and general manager of the Technology Support Services said the unit has set aside funds for the development of open source software and that an open source centre will be set up. \”We are certainly committed to exploring the possibilities of open source,\” he said.

Stephen Owens, director of iLab Enterprise Open Source. The focus of his discussion was on the differences between proprietary and open source software, using a range of case studies of several international governments that have implemented successful open source policies.

In the case of the GSSC, Owens suggested that the policy on software choice would be made on merit, thereby avoiding a prejudicial selection. He also stressed the importance of evaluating the benefits and the downfalls of any given software system before any decision is made. \”Where proprietary software is better, then we will be compelled to use it, and where open source is better we will use it,\” he said.

The proposed government policy on open source stipulates that where the direct advantages and disadvantages of open source and proprietary software are equally strong, the implementation of open source will be preferable. Even so Owens said that an open source model can be adopted for the development of local government systems and those systems may be developed to run on open source software.

\”Open source strategies can help to put South Africa on the IT map, while creating jobs, saving government large forex in the form of licensing bills and give users freedom of choice,\” said Owens. When questioned on how OSS would assist in job creation, he said that people would be required to develop the software within the government and also that people would be necessary for both implementation and support. Roussos added that open source opportunities would create skill motivation in the development of software.

Another concern that Owens explored was that of platform and application standardisation. His view was that as open source can be developed to suit the systems requirements, it generally follows standards.

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