Open source procurement costs less and reduces vendor lock-in
25.05.2012 | OSEPA survey studies usage of Open Source Software among European public administrations
Lower costs of procurement and getting rid of IT vendor lock-in are the two main benefits of using free and open source software (FOSS) according to the findings of a survey conducted by the OSEPA Project in collaboration with MFG Innovation Agency.
The results were published recently at the 2nd OSEPA conference in Jihlava, Czech Republic, providing the opportunity to have further discussions and design the most appropriate strategy for the next steps of the Project. The survey indicated also that concerns on security are regarded as a major barrier to FOSS usage. Technical difficulties and lack of support in integrating FOSS applications to existing proprietary systems also seem to prevent public organisations from migrating to open source solutions. None the less policies that are favourable to FOSS were also frequently identified among responses.
The purpose of the OSEPA survey was to assess the level of FOSS uptake and identify the factors affecting its usage among European public administrations as well as to utilize the knowledge of experts in the field, to understand the needs and requirements that relate directly to FOSS and to help the FOSS community to compete more directly with proprietary solutions. The survey was conducted through an online questionnaire in 20 countries over a period of 10 weeks between October and December 2011. It resulted into a total of 1088 valid responses from 19 countries. The majority of responses came from participants with a technical background and role in their organisation while about 1 out of 3repondents had a non-technical profile.
FOSS attitudes of both IT and non-IT staff are perceived as being to a great extend mixed and fluid. Clear and straightforward pro-FOSS strategies do not seem to account for the majority of collected responses. This was indicated when respondents reported lack of knowledge and policy coordination as major barriers to FOSS usage and implementation among public administrations. Targeted implementation or planning of FOSS integration in e.g. servers or office suites was identified as the most common strategy towards FOSS usage.
The survey concluded that lower costs of procurement and getting rid of IT vendor lock-in are the two main benefits of using free and open source software. The conclusions also show that there needs to be a general change in attitude towards transparency and sharing which will generate the cornerstone on which FOSS will gain momentum. One more point worth considering is that with Europe currently experiencing fiscal problems. Developing European strategy and policy relating to the use of FOSS may prove to be beneficial in order to maximise value for money in European public administration IT departments.
MFG is the German partner organisation in the OSEPA project. Project aims to conduct a systematic debate among European public administrations, supported by analysis and exchange of experience, on the issue of FOSS. The project is being implemented by a consortium of thirteen partners across European local and regional Public Administrations. This INTERREG IVC Programme is part of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective of the Structural Fund policies for the period 2007-2013 and it is financed through the European Regional Development Fund.