Public administrations in Ireland are losing their fear of open source, trying it out in a test environment offered by the country's Local Government Management Agency (LGMA). In July, the agency publicly announced its so-called Sandbox, a standalone network infrastructure offering a safe, controlled environment. Already in place for a while now, the sandbox helped convince local administrations to implement customer relation management tool SugarCRM and content management system Drupal.
The sandbox helps overcome local administration's uncertainty for open source systems, says Tim Willoughby, the LGMA's assistant CEO and involved in the LGMA's Open Source Practice Centre. "Using open source is not difficult, it is just different."
The LGMA's test environment allow local administrations to quickly create virtual systems where they can install and experiment with open source and benefit from other authorities's use. "So far it has been used it to try out Alfresco, SugarCRM, Drupal and testing of the Linux Terminal Server Project for use in public libraries", says Willoughby. The major benefit is that public administrations do not have to build such a testing environment themselves, he says..
Fix your street
The sandbox already is a success, he says. One example is SugarCRM, now being used by several public administrations, including managing payments for two tax applications, the Household Charge and the Non Principal Private Residences. It is also used for registration of domestic waste water treatment systems.
In 2011, the South Dublin County Council started piloting the use of FixMyStreet, an open source, online service developed originally in the UK to allow citizens to report potholes, broken sidewalks, graffiti, non-functioning lamp posts and other problems. Renamed 'FixYourStreet' by the county, their service is now rapidly being integrated in the services of other local administrations, says Willoughby. "For those that did not have a CRM, that is one of the reasons of they're implementing SugarCRM." A FixYourStreet plugin is developed by a number of Irish public administrations, using the Github code repository.
A growing number of Ireland's public administrations are turning to Drupal, sees Willoughby. "Across the sector, a lot of authorities are pushing out Drupal sites, either as principle websites or for specific interests."
The LGMA's Open Source Practice Centre is concentrating on helping public administrations use open source where it makes sense and where others have proven the maturity of the solution, Willoughby says. "IT companies no longer tell public administrations that open source is a risk." The government's austerity measures are also an important driver, he adds.