Friday, May 12, 2006

Open Source New York City

Open Source New York City

To the elected leaders of New York City:

Microsoft Office is expensive and unnecessary, and switching to the feature-equivalent and compatible software can save New York taxpayers more than $10 million each year.

Open Source software, also called Free Software (as in Freedom) can provide New York City with significant benefits by increasing the efficiency of governmental operations. Open Source software is free to use, but more importantly, its source code is free to observe, modify and correct by any user. Changes that improve its quality are adopted and shared with all users of the program.

Linux and Firefox are the most famous open source programs, but other lesser known programs are of equal importance: over 2/3s of global webservers are run on the open source Apache web server, for example. And is likely to be the next big hit.

Because it is free to acquire, goverments around the world have recently begun adopting open source software as a way to cut costs and use their budgets on more important matters. If New York ceases purchasing Microsoft Office in favor of, it could save millions of dollars in licensing fees each year, while causing almost no disruption to any City employee’s daily work. (In the longer term, a conversion from Windows to Linux would also be logical, but city computer users will find this to be a slightly larger adjustment.) Today, or next week, any person can install on their Windows computer and start using it, free of charge. Many will not even notice that their software has been changed.

There are four major reasons that open source software, and in particular, is the best choice for public agencies.

1. The first reason to switch to open source is to protect data created by the City. No single company should have control over the format in which that data is saved, because then they have ultimate control over all access to it.
2. The second reason is that citizens expect transparency in government, and the software tools which the government uses should also be open to their scrutiny. Open source software code can be viewed and analyzed by anyone, allowing each person to satisfy his need to understand the processes he or she sees in its functioning.
3. The third reason is to support the local economy. Open source encourages many small businesses, as each has fair and equal access to all information about the software. Local consultants can use the service-and-support business model to provide value to users of open source software. They can also refine the code to suit a client’s needs, or create third-party add-ons for their clients. Helping to grow the local software industry is far more valuable to the City than sending all that taxpayer money to someone else’s distant economy.
4. The fourth reason is cost. Open source software carries no licensing fee. This will save an organization the size of NYC many millions of dollars each year. This money can be better spent on police and fire protection than on paying monopoly rents on software tools.

Numerous governments, from towns to nations, from the USA to Europe to the entire world, have already made great strides implementing in lieu of Microsoft Office.

* Massachusetts has decided to standardize on the OpenDocument format for all state-produced documents, by January 1, 2007. Microsoft has refused to support this standard format, therefore Massachusetts state agencies will be moving to an application that does, such as, StarOffice, KOffice, or one of several others. I have collected links and information in these posts:
o Massachusetts Chooses OpenDocument
o Why OpenDocument Won
o More on Massachusetts and OpenDocument
* Los Angeles is currently analyzing a proposal to switch to Linux and/or and use the saved funds to hire more police officers:
o Federal Computer Week
o Linux Insider

“For example, Kamensky said city officials could save US$5.2 million by switching to OpenOffice, an open-source desktop computer suite that includes word processor and spreadsheet programs, rather than purchasing a Microsoft Office product at $200 per license for 26,000 desktops. The savings would go to a special fund to hire more employees for the police department, a major focus for city officials right now, he added.”
* The State of Indiana will deploy up to 300,000 Linspire Linux computers with over the next few years: Linspire press release.
* Singapore Ministry of Defense is moving 20,000 users to Europa
* The national police in France (the Gendarmerie) have decided to replace 80,000 copies of Microsoft Office on Windows computers with on Windows by the end of the summer of 2005, and had already converted 35,000 by January. They will save two million euros per year: Europa
* The French national tax agency also announced it will migrate 80,000 of its own computers from Microsoft Office 97 to in 2006, and save €29.3 million over choosing MS Office XP, as part of its larger move to open source: ZDNet UK
* Munich, Germany is converting 14,000 municipal computers to Linux and in the next few years: The Economist
* The original Harlem, in the Netherlands, has switched its 2,000 municipal computers to OpenOffice: The Register
* Brazil is switching its governmental computing platform to Linux and, totaling 300,000 computers. (This is an audio report.): NPR
* Brazil’s post office installed 14,000 copies of on new computers in January 2005, and will replace Microsoft Office with on an additional 32,000 computers nationwide. Bloomberg
* Birmingham, England is migrating 1,500 computers to Linux and ZDNet UK
* Since 2003, Extremadura, a region of Spain, has run 80,000 Linux PCs with and a collection of other FOSS applications. OS News
* In 2005, Macedonia rolled out 5,000 Linux computers (using Ubuntu with GNOME) in 468 schools and 182 computer labs nationwide. GNOME Journal
* Other governments around the world moving to, or analyzing, and/or Linux include:
Austin (Texas), PR China, Israel, Malaysia, Massachusetts, Oregon, Newfoundland (Canada), Peru, Rhode Island, South Africa, the UK, Venezuela, Vienna, and others.

This “tipping point” is not just happening in governments, as many large corporations have also begun adopting and/or Linux.

* Google: More than 50% of desktops company-wide run Linux. “All the developers use it and most of the engineers and sysadmins.”
* Novell: “Novell’s internal Open Desktop Initiative now sees more than 85 per cent of its employees utilising the business productivity applications ‘full time’.” (4,850 employees out of its total of 5,700)
Novell Connection Magazine 1
Novell Connection Magazine 2
Novell Connection Magazine 3
* IBM: “IBM executives said at the time (November, 2003) that they had approximately 15,000 Linux desktops within the company and predicted that they would have between 40,000 and 60,000 desktops in operation by the end of 2004.”
* Oracle: “Oracle will finish switching its 9,000-person in-house programming staff to Linux by the end of 2004, the database powerhouse said.”
* Sun Microsystems: 100% of its 36,000 employees use StarOffice, a fully-compatible derivative of
* Cisco: Of 37,000 employees in the company, 2,000 currently use Linux. The company goal is for 70% of employees to use Linux and in the next ‘few years.’
* HDFC Bank: “One of India’s most savvy IT users, HDFC Bank, has been using OpenOffice on more than 7,000 desktops for about two years. It has also deployed Linux-based desktops for the use of its outbound telemarketing team.”
* LVM Insurance in Munster, Germany: 7,700 Red Hat Linux desktops.
* From the same article as above: “Banca Popolare di Milano is rolling out 4,500 SUSE Linux desktops with a Mozilla Web browser, a Web client for Lotus Notes, Sun’s StarOffice suite and a Java-based custom suite of banking applications to its 500 branch offices.”
* Canara Bank in India: 10,000 Red Hat Linux desktops and 1,000 servers to be distributed across the bank’s 2,500 branches.
* Health First, Inc. in Brevard County, FL: Migrating 6,000 IT users on 3,500 PCs from Microsoft Office 97 to (May 2004).

(For another list, compiled by the project itself, see the Major Deployments wiki page.)

New York City can and should be next. The rewards of the switch would be vast, and the risks minimal.

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