The overhaul of government service delivery in Limerick, Ireland's third-largest city, proceeds in concert with the introduction of free and and open source software, says Bilauca Mihai, part of the change management team for Limerick, both the city and the county.
“We are transforming both public administrations - divided in many independent silos - into a new customer-centric organisation”, says Mihai. “We are rebuilding our operating structure, focussing on the needs of our citizens, and open source plays an essential role.”
“We gradually introduced new open source solutions over the past five years”, explains Mihai, “and discovered that we gained much more than saving costs.”
Compared to proprietary solutions, free software is fast to implement, allowing the IT department an agile and immediate response to new or changing IT demands. “It is also a way for the city to support local ICT service providers”, he says. It explains why Limerick made the open approach a core principle for its government services model.
Mihai was one of the speakers a the Open For Business conference in Dublin last Friday. The conference was organised by Ireland’s Local Government Management Agency (LGMA) and the country’s Office of Public Works (OPW).
He explained how a new case management system was built, using the open source customer relationship management system SugarCRM. It runs the Local Authority Service Catalogue, streamlining government services and business processes. The CRM system consolidates data - dispersed across many systems, spreadsheets and ad-hoc databases - into a single customer view, Mihai said.
Limerick is making its case management system available as open source, and is working on improvements together with other Irish administrations, including LGMA, OPW and the counties of Cork, Meath and Kildare.
Options and freedom
The Limerick public administration is a prime user of open source. LibreOffice is installed on all 800 workstations and Ubuntu Linux is used to run many of the administration’s servers and for a few of the desktop workstations.
The document management system is Alfresco, and some of the databases are managed with MySQL and PostgreSQL. Limerick also uses or pilots several open source solutions related to geographic information systems, including QuantumGis, GeoServer and OpenLayers.
“Open source is not just about saving costs. It gives a public administration options to negotiate with IT vendors, and the freedom to do more”, Mihai says. “Open source, open data and open standards allow a municipality to unlock a potential that has been chained by proprietary IT for far too long. It is the only serious enabler of digital transformation.”