Three New Zealand government agencies will begin a pilot next month to replace their existing Windows desktops with machines running Linux and other open source software.
The Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Horizons Regional Council and NZ Post will all begin trialling the use of Linux desktops in February. NZ Post's open source plans were outed by Computerworld in August last year.
Don Christie, president of the New Zealand Open Source Society (NZOSS), revealed the pilot plans of the other agencies during a presentation yesterday at linux.conf.au 2010 in Wellington.
While many government agencies utilise open source software in server implementations, roll-outs of desktop software are rarer, despite a 2003 policy encouraging the use of open source.
"The problem with New Zealand's 2003 policy is that it doesn't recognise the fact that there's a monopoly that's incumbent, that has behaved in an anti-competitive manner and that effectively drives all other options," Christie said.
A project called Public Sector Remix started by NZOSS in August 2009, following the end of a long-standing contract between Microsoft and the NZ Government, aims to change the situation. The project is developing a reference desktop which could be used in any government department, supplemented as needed with additional packages.
"It turned out that defining what should go on a standard government desktop was pretty simple," Christie said. The standard system includes Ubuntu as the OS, Firefox for browsing, OpenOffice as an office suite, and the Alfresco CMS. The more complicated element was ensuring that back-end systems could be connected to as needed.
Fourteen agencies were involved in the process of developing the reference implementation, but only three agencies are currently planning a pilot roll-out, Christie said.
"You've got to move from lip service to actual implementation. What we've done is produced a very good policy out of this project which, if they so choose, agencies can adopt."