Public Sector Remix IT Vendor Capability Survey Results

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NZOSS and Victoria University Announce Public Sector Remix IT Vendor Capability Survey Results

The New Zealand Open Source Society and Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Information Management today announced the results of an IT vendor capability survey, carried out as part of the Public Sector Remix project.

The Remix project involves a number of central, regional and local government agencies working together to trial free software for common desktop tasks such as document management, mail, calendar and browser-based information services.

Participating agencies identified availability of third party support services as an essential enabler of free desktop software adoption. To counter the lack of information about what services are available, the project undertook a survey of vendor capability.

The Society’s President, Don Christie, said, “The survey has plugged a big hole in our knowledge. We received 32 completed surveys and the results show that there is a rich choice of experienced desktop support and fleet management service providers.”

Respondents stated that most users adapt easily to a free software desktop, with minimal training. Free software alternatives are readily available and proven for all standard desktop functions. The most frequently cited benefits were freedom from vendor lock-in, flexibility and cost savings.

Ubuntu is by far the most widely deployed GNU/Linux distribution. OpenOffice, the Firefox web browser, Thunderbird mail and Lightning calendar are used for the core desktop functions. Respondents use The Gimp image editor, Inkscape graphics editor, and Evince PDF viewer to provide other common functions.

However, respondents reported that vendors of proprietary document management systems have been slow to support free software on the desktop. “Agencies planning to adopt a free software desktop will need
to take steps to remove the barriers presented by proprietary document management systems,” said Christie.

In the server room, respondents run GNU/Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP, Perl and Python. They use PostgreSQL and Java/Tomcat to a lesser extent.

The Victoria researchers were impressed by the commitment respondents make to free software. Sid Huff, Head of the School of Information Management, noted, “They contribute to a wide range of free software projects (over 50 different projects were mentioned) and actively promote use of free software.”

“Switching desktops is to embark on a Digital OE,” said Huff. “The more you immerse yourself in a new culture, the more you get back.”

Most of the vendors responding were small (fewer than 10 people), supporting small to medium sized organisations (up to 500 seats). Several larger vendors responded, with 3 employing more than 50 people. Respondents also supported 3 sites with over 500 seats.

The number of comments and the amount of effort that vendors put into supporting free software shows that they are keen to see a stronger free software community in New Zealand and are helping to build this in many different ways.

The survey completes the third leg of the Public Sector Remix project — a free desktop software stack, policies to ensure agencies actively and fairly assess free software, and services to deploy and support free desktops. “Agencies who want contestability on the desktop can now escape the status quo,” said Christie.

A pdf version of the Victoria University report is attached to this article.

To learn more about the Public Sector Remix project, call Don Christie on 0274 707 814.

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