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March 2, 2009
Governments continue to march toward open source. The Dutch government last year committed to use open standards, the French government has deployed Kubuntu desktops to over 1,000 members of parliament and staff, and a few days ago the United Kingdom government announced an Open Source action plan. The plan, entitled ‘Open Source, Open Standards and Re-Use‘, calls to ensure that open source solutions be fully and fairly considered for public sector IT projects and emphasises the requirement for sharing and re-use of code to reduce costs and drive common solutions.
Finally governments are realising that open source has benefits beyond initial cost savings. They are discovering the freedom to share and re-use open source solutions is more cost-efficient in the long run. To quote Richard Stallman (founder of the GNU project and Free Software Foundation), FOSS essentially means “free as in free speech, not as in free beer.”
Now, code re-use is great if you are a government and commission many large IT projects. You can be safe in the knowledge that five or 10 years down the line when your system needs upgrading, you are not going to have to start again from scratch or pay over the nose because you are locked in to proprietary code. You can evolve and re-use your existing tried and tested open source solution.
So where does Ubuntu figure in this? If an open source solution has been chosen and implemented for the server side, there is every chance that an open source solution will be chosen for the client side. That means Linux on the desktop.
Since most public sector IT support staff are likely not to be familiar yet with supporting a Linux desktop (though I am sure this will change with time), the chosen solution will need the backing of support.
Ubuntu is one of the few desktop Linux solutions that comes with the option of paid support from Canonical and their partners. If Ubuntu is deployed as the client Operating System, it can be done so with the piece of mind not only that you are deploying a stable, robust OS free from proprietary licensing, but that if it all goes horribly wrong, you can fall back to Canonical and pay someone there to fix it.
Contributing blogger Guy Thouret is a software engineer for a wireless energy management system company. He has used various GNU/Linux distributions since 2002.
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