In the Czech municipality of Grygov open source is used almost everywhere. It covers most of the applications used by the administration, offers public Internet access across the entire village and it is the basis for an SMS gateway linking the regional fire department with the volunteers in the village. The software even keeps parents up to date on changes in school schedules.
Using open source has helped to lower IT costs, says Vice-Mayor Petr Chramosta. Moreover, it allows Grygov to offer reliable and innovative e-government services, such as the gateway. A typical use case for this gateway is a scheduled interruption of the water supply, illustrates the Vice-Mayor. "At very low cost and with little effort we inform all villagers in advance by SMS and by e-mail."
Grygov has about 1400 inhabitants. The local administration uses ten desktop PCs and less than a handful of servers. The local network connects some 160 households.
Combined with the village-wide intranet the SMS gatewey offers a handy system for public service announcements. "We use it to inform citizens of upcoming events and meetings and our citizens can also respond by SMS."
The Vice-Mayor talked about the use of open source in the Moravian municipality at a workshop in Prague on 26 March. This two-day meeting was organised by the Osepa consortium, a group of twelve public administrations and the University of Sheffield. The project is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
Grygov municipality funded the development of several functions for the SMS gateway. Chramosta: "I'm surprised that there are not more public administrations using what we make available as open source, for free. Licence costs for the proprietary competitor's product are considerable, and yet our SMS gateway offers more."
"Using open source software means we save public money", the Vice-Mayor explains. Cost savings were an initial reason to move to open source, a move that began in 2006 when the newly appointed Chramosta found that the public administration used many unlicensed applications. "To begin with, we immediately switched to using OpenOffice and later LibreOffice."
It enables Grygov to use any number of installations, regardless of operating system or whether civil workers are using it at the office or at home. "We have no problems exchanging documents, and that includes some complicated documents with tables that we exchange with ministries and the regional administration."
Chramosta is also very impressed with the stability of the open source services. "Many of our IT services operate for years without much intervention." One example of this is the Radius server, built using Debian Linux, that offers Internet access, in ten-minute intervals, to all visitors. "If you want a permanent connection, just register at the municipal office."
"Grygov's use of free and open source should be an example to all small municipalities. If not for its principles, then for its truly impressive quality."
The village's extensive use of open source was first reported by the Czech free software magazine 'Open source & Practice'.