Thesis written for B.Sc. (Hons.) Computer Information Systems.
As time progresses and computer systems evolve, the government and related public entities are evermore relying on the reliability of their Information Systems for the performance of their core business; Your pension, income tax, driver's license, social security, hospital records and other critical information are all held on computer systems. With this in mind, government and the public sector is increasing investment in IT, both on the server side and on the workstations of public sector employees.
Several times, much importance is given to the hardware that runs the bespoke information systems used by the public sector, as is the security and maintenance of these systems. Locally, Malta has been ranked 2nd by Eurostat in the list of countries with the best e-government services, following Austria.
Now that the basic IT infrastructure of government has been established, and awareness and usage of e-government service is ever increasing, should it not be the time to look at what software the public sector is using and evaluate whether the best solution is being used? Many times, government will default to using proprietary software due to the support given by vendors and the steady upgrade cycle. Also choice of software many times comes down to simply choosing the best known brand, without looking at alternatives.
This may all be well, but what happens if the vendor goes out of business? What happens when software licenses rise in price exponentially? What happens when a European government realizes that, in-fact, most of the software used by government is actually under the total control of a North American vendor? What if the talent found in both local public and private firms is used for creating open- source solutions used by government?
In this dissertation, the open-source alternative will be discussed. Many national as well as municipal governments such as China, Brazil, Munich, Paris, Finland and Russia have either implemented or are in the process of implementing open-source solutions to replace their proprietary systems. Certain governments cite cost as the driving factor, others cite the possibility of choosing from a multitude of support vendors, others cite what open-source is all about – the ability to embrace, extend and disseminate software to increase the quality and freedom of information systems worldwide.