Iceland's government pushes for open source

The UK may be moving very slowly towards open source, but Iceland has put its foot on the pedal with a 12 month public sector plan.

All public administrations are now being encouraged to take the plunge and ditch proprietary software, Icelandic authorities have announced.  

Government ministries, the National Hospital and three of the largest public institutions in Iceland are already being heralded as examples of how others should increase the use of open source software.

Now a one year project is being launched to attract all public institutions to join in on efforts to introduce a wholesale migration.

The Icelandic government does not expect to have everyone on board in the course of the year, but hopes to “lay a solid foundation” for such a move.

This will involve creating greater collaboration between public sector and IT service providers, with a direct appeal to institutions.

In the UK, some plans have been put in place over the years to increase the use of open source software in the public sector.

Despite the Cabinet Office and a handful of others choosing open source for certain uses, it has proved difficult to break away from handing over cash for proprietary software.

Part of the problem has been a lack of cohesion on open standards, which has created difficulties in achieving the “level playing field” for open source that Francis Maude has called for in the past.

According to Gerry Gavigan at the Open Source Consortium, there are still significant barriers to the goal of open standards and open source software in the UK.

The government needs to “get on with open standards” he says, and to do this the benefits of open source need to be readdressed. 

This involves changing people’s perceptions to see open source as an “enabler” rather than just “Libre Office versus Microsoft Office”.  When this happens, the benefits of interoperability can be fully recognised.

“These are the issues that get missed,” Gavigan told TechEye. “It’s a bigger picture than the way it gets painted.”

As well as announcing that it will push towards open source, Gavigan believes that other nations have shown the benefits.

“George Osborne talked recently about the BRICs economies, they used open source software,” he said. “The BRIC economies support open standards and open source software, and Iceland supports open source software because it is looking for sources of growth.  It is trying to find ways of sorting out its economy.” 

While the UK may differ in many respects from Iceland and the BRIC nations, the government is intent on pushing for a return to growth. Gavigan believes that supporting open source is a lesson to be learnt from abroad.

“In the recent budget statement George Osborne pointed to the BRICs economies as models to be emulated – the conclusion is obvious,” he said.