EC unveils open-source guide

New guidelines direct government IT managers through the decision to switch from proprietary software and offer hints on migrating systems

The European Community (EC) yesterday launched a new set of guidelines designed to help government IT managers decide whether to make the switch from proprietary to open-source software and how to migrate their systems.

The rather sizeable document was drafted between the EC itself, member states including Finland, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, as well as consultants, and offers both management and technical advice for those thinking about giving proprietary software the elbow.

Among the advice to be found in the document are tips on how to migrate desktops, ensure interoperability and keep mobile workers on board -- all described in what the authors call "broadly technical terms" -- as well as recommendations on how to deal with the human-resources side of the swap.

The guidelines have been released in line with the EC's Interchange of Data between Administrators (IDA) programme, which is intended to ensure greater interoperability between the various public administrations of member states.

While many European countries provided input for the document, the UK was one of those that didn't take part, despite the British government's professed fondness for open source. Nine local authorities across the UK are currently trialling open-source software in an attempt to boost cost and efficiency across government.

Germany, which did take part in compiling the document, is well-known for leading the way in the adoption of alternatives to traditional proprietary software -- the Mayor of Munich famously was immune to Steve Ballmer's considerable charms and plumped for Linux on the authority's 14,000 computers.