Local authorities keen on open source

Roughly half of the UK's local authorities are planning to increase their use of open source software over the next three years, according to a Socitm survey

Cost, security and dissatisfaction with Microsoft will drive almost two-thirds of local authorities to increase their use of open source software over the next three years, according to new research.

The survey of 99 local authorities by local government IT user group Socitm and the Financial Times found 60 percent intend to extend the use of open source in their infrastructure, while 35 percent said it will stay the same. Just one council said that its use of open source will decline.

Cost was cited as the main benefit by 88 of the respondents, followed by less vendor lock-in and fewer security issues. But the lack of support was cited by 47 respondents as the main drawback of using open source, followed by the lack of skills and training.

A range of issues with equal weighting were also cited as having an impact on local authorities' open source strategy including support, dissatisfaction with Microsoft, rising costs, training and security issues, and standardisation.

The research also revealed mixed levels of open source use in local government: currently just eight percent use it on the desktop. That figure is higher on the application and infrastructure levels, at 34 percent and 39 percent respectively.

Justin Holliday, assistant chief executive at Haringey Council, said the deals big software companies have struck with government recently have "taken away some of the business case for moving towards [open source]".

But he said it is likely to return because there is a political drive behind open source by some in the public sector. "There's a drive to move away from some of the big suppliers because of a knee-jerk reaction against American capitalism," he said.

A Microsoft spokeswoman said the company believes it still offers the best overall option of value, integration, interoperability and support.

"Microsoft, like the rest of the technology industry, strongly believes that governments and users of technology should be free to use the software and other technologies that best meet their needs. We share these governments' desire to see a vibrant IT industry in their countries and in the region," she said.