Governments that list open source alternatives to proprietary software applications, make government IT organisations familiar with open source, which helps them to challenge their IT suppliers. A new case study published on Thursday by Joinup recommends to develop a list of generic open source packages at a European level "allowing other countries to use it."
The case study 'Lists of open source alternatives to proprietary software packages', reviews the list of open source applications compiled by the British Cabinet Office. The UK lists "over 150 software packages, each with a short description, the names of some proprietary packages it might replace, and links to case studies."
The case study also describes a stack of open source software applications, compiled by the German Open Source Integration Initiative.
Such lists are useful for governments that want to increase the use of open source, concludes the case study. "It allows public agencies to take control over decisions in technology that are now taken by large IT companies, creating freedom of choice, and shifting market power to the demand side." Such lists can help providers of open source solutions to compete for government IT contracts.
Handle with care
The case study also warns that such options list should be used with care. The best solution depends on the specific use and context. Software should be evaluated on a wide range of characteristics, and whether it is closed source or open source is just one of these.
The case study recommends that such lists become part of a broader software selection and evaluation methodology. "Since there are many other open source packages available, it should be used as a starting point only, not as a definitive set of options. That would create barriers to both uptake of solutions and innovation. The options list should not be prescriptive or definitive."
Joinup case study