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Hard-up Iceland plumps for cheaper open source

Public sector has one year to flee from Microsoft and co

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Iceland’s government is accelerating its move to open source at the expense of proprietary software from the likes of Microsoft and Oracle.

The government has launched a one-year migration project moving public institutions to open-source software and is working on a call for a tender to buy services based on free and open-source software.

The plan is for the project to create a common infrastructure for migration where public administrators will document the level of maturity of open-source alternatives to proprietary software used in their departments.

A group of unnamed specialists has been formed to monitor the project to prevent failures.

Letters will be sent to all heads of public institutions recommending the use of open standards, while the specialists working on the project are compiling a list of free and open-source software projects by public institutions that allow outsiders to participate.

Iceland’s national curriculum is also being evaluated to make sure it “does not restrict the use of free and open source software.”

The move accelerates the current pace of adoption of open source enabled by a 2007 policy statement [PDF] from Iceland’s government.

During that four-year period, five out of 32 of Iceland’s secondary schools have gone with open source – and are reported to have dumped Windows for Ubuntu on PCs. The majority are running open-source course management system Moodle.

Project leader Tryggvi Björgvinsson said here that while Iceland is running a one-year programme, the goal is not to move everybody over in the space of just 12 months but rather to lay a “solid foundation” that institutions can use to plan a move.

Iceland was hit hard by the 2008 financial crash, with its three main banks collapsing, the economy sliding into a recession and debts of $5bn owed to the British and Dutch. Iceland was forced to accept an IMF bailout that accompanied a restructuring of public finances.

All this put a huge squeeze on the public purse.

Commenting on the move to open source, Björgvinsson said “cost” was one of the prime motivators behind the move away from proprietary software. Björgvinsson also claimed the Icelandic government wanted “more equality between software” and the government needs to back open-source software “as there aren't that many service providers actively selling free and open-source software". ®

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