Switching to open source allowed Croatia's pension fund to significantly reduce the costs of its online service desk. Annual maintenance costs for the new, open source-based service are around 10,000 euro, 1/14 of the maintenance costs for the previous system, based on proprietary solutions, according to Marko Rakar, a consultant for the Ministry of Labour and Pension Systems. The new site was launched on 1 January 2014.
The online service desk allows users to apply for pension insurance, change and update their existing policies and carry out other administrative tasks.
According to Rakar, the old system could not handle more than 1800 transactions per day. Its frequent crashes led to poor acceptance by the pension funds' clients. As a result, the fund still receives many paper-based change requests.
Improving these performance issues and increasing the number of online users were the main reasons for overhauling the system. Two additional advantages of switching to open source are that the pension fund rids itself of the costs of proprietary licences and is now also in control of planning for upgrades and extensions. "Adding extra servers to handle an increase in demand for the service, can be done at minimal cost."
The pension fund also requested that the source code written for the system, be made available using the GPLv3 public licence. "This allows us to re-use the code in other projects. We are already planning several, similar services that will share the same code base where possible."
A bonus to the use of open source is that the new service is now able to handle electronic signatures, with solutions available for proprietary as well as open source. "This is the first Croatian e-government service that supports electronically signed documents on all operating systems, and it will have a big impact on other e-government services."
"This may be just another online service, but it is one that will raise the bar for other government organisations."