The Government has funded a ground-breaking new venture to accelerate the use of open source software (OSS) throughout local government.
Known as the Open Source Academy, the project represents one of the most significant developments yet in moves to drive up OSS adoption in government.
The Academy brings together a consortium of 10 founding partners who, with support from industry, will launch a wide-ranging programme aimed at tackling each of the major obstacles to OSS use.
It aims to provide a vehicle that will actively join up public sector work on OSS with European-wide initiatives during the year of the UK's EU Presidency.
As part of this, the project will develop new OS business applications designed for local government, targeting areas where alternatives to proprietary software are lacking. Among its other plans are to carry out large-scale case studies of OS use, including a study of the relative security of an OS solution compared with a Microsoft desktop infrastructure.
The initiative is one of 12 new projects funded through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's e-Innovations investment programme, taking the best aspects of four OSS-related project bids.
The five main workstreams of the project cover:
- OS Academy Portal - providing OSS guidance and advice through best practice and implementation guides, case studies, training materials, product listings and links to the OpenForum Europe portal and European networks
- OS Desktop - providing two large-scale case studies and design, implementation and integration support. It is intended that these will validate OS claims and demonstrate that it is possible to implement OS alongside existing architecture.
- OS Business Applications - providing a national open development environment (NODE) and several local authority packages
- Enabling Services - providing supplier and user accreditation schemes, masterclasses, an 'OS Sandpit', legal advice and a supplier database
- Programme Management - providing programme management, marketing and dissemination.
The partners include three major local authorities - Bristol, Cheshire and Birmingham as lead authority. A smaller district council, Shepway, will act as project co-ordinator. Other members include Socitm, the National Computing Centre, the University of Kent, the Institute of IT Training, OpenForum Europe and the Open Source Consortium.
The project has been developed with a long-term business model. Some of its future funding is likely to come from sponsorship fees, masterclasses, top-slicing of software-related sales and membership charges for some service areas.
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