Where public administrations base their IT strategy on open standards and on aligning their IT services with business needs, the large-scale use of open source software solutions will emerge, according to Major (Commandant) Stéphane Dumond of France's Gendarmerie. "Open source allows public administrations to control costs while deploying new technologies. And, when taking risks, these can be counterbalanced with closely guarded, first-rate services", Major Dumond said at a workshop organised by South Korea's Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning and the National IT Promotion Agency, in the country's capital Seoul, on 3 July.
Using open source solutions allows public administrations to really control their IT, instead of being controlled by it, Dumond said, referring to the reports on mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden, a former contractor at America's National Security Agency. Open source allows public administrations to do their own code analysis, while at the same time reaping the benefits of an integrated worldwide community. "It is the easiest way to protect oneself against the intelligence services of foreign countries."
He told the ministry that switching to Linux desktops allows public administrations to industrialise its desktops. The police force now has 65,000 PC workstations running Ubuntu Linux (version 12.04). This system offers centralised management and real control over the life-cycle of PC workstations.
"An industrialised open source desktop is a powerful lever for IT governance", says Dumond. It lowers the total costs of workstations by 40 percent, a combination of lower licence costs, much easier and central IT management and a huge decrease in the number of local technical interventions. "The decrease in licence costs are only the tip of the iceberg", Dumond said.
As the South Korean government has over 780,000 workstations in use, switching to open source would probably result in immense savings, he surmises.
Being able to choose
The major told the attendees of the workshop in Seoul that the Gendarmerie began its switch to open source ten years ago. It replaced its 20,000 copies of a ubiquitous proprietary office suite with 90,000 copies of OpenOffice, an open source equivalent. In 2006, it introduced Mozilla Firefox for web browsing and Mozilla Thunderbird for email, both as standard. In 2008 it deployed an initial 5,000 complete open source workstations, running Ubuntu Linux.
However, he warned that the process takes time, is difficult and the full support of management is essential. "Fortunately, the open source desktop helps the head of IT to structure the IT organisation, saving time, efforts and money. What is important is not the choice you make, but the fact that you have a choice."