Governments must have policies that increase their use of free and open source software solutions, says Professor Dr Wolfgang Finke from the Ernst-Abbe University of Applied Sciences in Jena (Germany). In many countries, the use of proprietary software might be unsustainable in the long-term, he says, “either from a technical or from a financial point of view.”
Professor Finke is convinced that IT security concerns will lead public administrations to use free software. It is the only way to avoid the security problems dominating the IT world today, he says. “However, open source is not the silver bullet”, he warned. “It will take professional information systems management, and a systematic and full utilisation of free and open source.”
Earlier this month, Finke was one of the key-note speakers at a conference in Oman. Professor Finke, a specialist in business information systems, recommends countries to set-up open source resource centres, to propel the use of this type of software. Such expertise centres should organise workshops and conferences, and make government and business managers systematically aware of the advantages of free software IT systems.
The centres will help build up technical and consulting capacities, explains the professor. “These boost competencies in the government and private sector, and nurture the local open source service sector. Public-private pilots can unlock areas with high potential, such as hospitals management, and university administrations.” The resource centres must also help to develop policies on free software, including development, sharing and reuse.
He recommends governments to build-up their expertise and create an environment beneficial to free software ICT companies. Open source software should also be a default in education policies, be part of the computer science curriculum at universities and introduced at schools.
This would help build-up an ICT sector that can support public administrations. “The chicken or the egg causality dilemma needs to be solved Finke says, “resource centres on open source ought to be mandatory.”
Speaking in Oman, professor Finke summarised the advantages for governments using open source. These include enhanced competition, increased interoperability, the use of international ICT standards and improved security, all resulting in significant savings. “The mere announcement of a country-wide switch to open source sees proprietary vendors drop their prices significantly”, Finke said.