Open source software is set to dramatically increase its foothold in the public sector. Two councils, Newham in London and Nottingham City Council, are examining the feasibility of shifting all their 11,500 staff desktop computers from Windows to Linux with open source desktop applications by the end of the year, according to E-Government Bulletin.
To date, open source has made slow progress onto public sector desktops, with only Penwith District Council in Cornwall and Scottish Central Police moving all their PCs to Star Office desktop software over a year ago.
An expected second wave of pioneers had so far failed to materialise, but now Newham has commissioned a feasibility study paving the way for the migration of its 5,000 workstations to open source later this year.
The move has particular significance since the council last year completed a successful e-government 'pathfinder' project involving a group of neighbouring councils: Barking and Dagenham, Hackney, Havering, Redbridge, Thanet, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest.
"If this is seen to work in Newham, it has the potential to be a significant project, changing the perceptions of other councils," said Tim Dawes, director of local government technology consultants Nineveh.
Nottingham is set to decide on new software for its 6,500 desktop PCs by the end of 2003 and confirmed to E-Government Bulletin this week that open source solutions are being considered. The news follows the council's successful migration to a Linux-based email system last year, after suffering numerous problems with its proprietary system.
According to technology manager Richard Heggs, shifting to open source messaging has cut costs by at least a third, a saving that would be repeated for desktops.
Meanwhile in continental Europe, Germany's third largest city Munich has announced it is to migrate its 14,000 workstations to Linux and an open source office suite in a deal worth millions of euros.
E-Government Bulletin is a free email newsletter.