Wednesday, 24 November 2004
Dáil Eireann Debate
130. Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Finance if he will make a statement on the use of open source technology in Government computer systems in view of the vital importance of the development of e-Government. [30613/04]
Minister for Finance (Mr. Cowen): It is necessary to clarify the distinction between e-Government and open source technology. e-Government is about improving efficiencies in service delivery processes, typically involving the innovative use of information and communications technologies, ICTs, and the transformation of operational processes. The action plan for e-Government and progress reports on its implementation are available in the information society policy section of the Department of the Taoiseach website at www.gov.ie/taoiseach.
Open source software, OSS, is where the source code of software is made available for use or modification under licence. In many instances, this code is available for free or relatively small fees. There is no necessary interdependence between the two. The Irish public service has recognised the value and importance of OSS and the potential it offers for some considerable time. Consequently, OSS is used quite widely and wherever it makes operational and economic sense in Departments and offices, in areas such as operating systems, desktop productivity tools, etc.
In making software choices, the Irish public service operates a procurement policy that facilitates open competition, best value for money and best technological fit to requirements in keeping with public procurement law. Within that approach, different products are evaluated on their merits, including openness in terms of future procurement and, where possible, avoidance of lock-in to a particular supplier. Accordingly, an open view is taken which in practice tends to follow standards emerging from the market. These open standards are critically important to facilitate interconnection of computer systems and exchange of data and information across these systems.
Consequently, with respect to the costs of software, consideration is given to the total cost of ownership which, in addition to the licensing element, also includes the issues and costs associated with development, maintenance, customisation, adherence to open standards, etc. In keeping with this, my Department is engaged in ongoing OSS research to enable it to judge the value of new opportunities as they arise in this area. This research indicates that OSS can form part of viable solutions and my Department has so advised public bodies.
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