German govt gives major boost to open source

More than 500 German government groups are now using open-source software.

More than 500 German government groups are now using open-source software.

The news came a year after the German Ministry of the Interior signed a partnership with IBM to supply open-source software on new computers.

Interior minister Otto Schily referred to the agreement as a "milestone" in the government's efforts to create a diverse, open software landscape in the public sector.

"The numbers speak for themselves," he said. "Demand is so great that we will offer an online registration service to speed up the process for all interested parties."

In June last year, Schily and Erwin Staudt, chairman of IBM Deutschland, signed a deal whereby public sector groups could receive discounts on IBM computers preinstalled with a version of the open-source Linux operating system supplied by SuSE Linux.

Among the government bodies to sign up for the service are the Cartel Office, Monopoly Commission, Federal Data Protection Commissioner and the Animal Breeding Agency, according to Schily.

The list also includes Schwäbisch Hall, which was the first city in Europe to make a complete switch to a Linux-based IT infrastructure, Schily said, and the city of Munich, which has also chosen to migrate its 14,000 computers to open-source software.

"Schwäbisch Hall is an example of how a migration to Linux can reduce costs for software licences and thus free up capital to modernise IT infrastructure in the government sector," he said.

But Schily added that the government's promotion of open-source software should not be understood as an "either-or decision" between commercial software suppliers and the open-source community. It was an effort to achieve the best of both worlds.

"This means that we also want to work together with Microsoft," the minister said.

Schily pointed to the government's recent decision to develop a list of guidelines for the public sector to migrate computer systems to open-source software, saying the guidelines should further boost interest in the software.

John Blau writes for IDG News Service

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