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
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
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."