The government of Andalusia, one of Spain's autonomous regions, is preparing to use a complete open source desktop environment. The analysis of requirements of such a desktop system is nearly completed, the next step will be a few small scale tests, according to a presentation by José Félix Ontañón, one of the software developers involved.
Ontañón talked about the plans by the Andalusian government at the Guadec conference that took place in The Hague, Netherlands, last month.
For the first test, several work stations in the administration will be running a number of open source applications on the proprietary operating system currently used by the administration. In a second phase, a limited number of these desktops will be converted to run a locally tailored version of a Linux distribution.
This distribution is called GUA (Administration Edition of Guadalinex). Guadalinux itself is based on the Ubuntu Linux distribution.
Guadalinux is common in many schools and community centres in Andalusia, said Ontañón. It is, for instance, used on 300,000 school desktops and on more than 180,000 laptops for pupils and teachers in more than two thousand schools in the region. In late 2011, another 100,000 more computers running Guadalinex will have been delivered to Andalusian schools. The open source operating system and applications are also used in 764 Gaudalinfo community centres, where every month they are used by at least 40,000 citizens.
Andalusia's policy to use free and open source software dates from 2003, when it decided that its schools and its public Internet centres would use this type of software. The use of free and open source software is meant to help modernise the region and to bridge the digital divide for disabled and socially disfavoured citizens.
Andalusia decreed in 2005 that all of the custom applications made by the public administration would be published as free software.
According to Ontañón, a developer of Guadalinex at the open source IT service provider Emergya, the development of this distribution shows that government IT application development teams can cooperate successfully with open source projects. "Administrations need to work with companies that understand how open source is developed, that relate to the community and are willing to contribute to open source projects."
In Andalusia, the government's involvement has helped create a sustainable free and open source IT industry. "This is helping society to break its proprietary software habits."
Report on the conference by José Félix Ontañón (in Spanish)