Thursday 23 June 2011

Bristol's voyage to open source software hits choppy waters

A double whammy has hit Bristol City Council's seven-year campaign to be at the forefront of councils using open source software.

Last month, Liberal democrat councillors voted fellow party member Mark Wright, one of the strategy's political architects, out of his post as ICT portfolio holder.

In addition, a row has broken out between Computacenter and Sirius, joint contractors to provide an open systems infrastructure for the council.

Sirius' managing director, Mark Taylor, said his company had been engaged by the council 12 months ago to undertake strategic work prior to the roll out of an open source pilot. However, he says, "we were kicked off the project".

Taylor said: "We don't have an argument with the council. But they are not getting what they asked for."

Taylor said his company was recommending the user of a proprietary desktop system, underpinned by open source products. However, he says the changes made to the recommendations would have meant an increased use of proprietary systems.

The move to open source systems was part of drive by the council to cut down on software costs. Figures released by the council last year indicate it spends £7.3m a year on software licences.

Wright said he hoped that Bristol would continue to be at the vanguard of open source in local government.

He said: "The loss of the two main cheerleaders on the project (me, and Sirius IT) is obviously a huge shame (particularly for me) and it remains to be seen exactly what effect this will have."

A council spokesman said, "We are committed to maximising the use of open source when it meets our business needs. The project that is being led by Computacenter is still very much ongoing. We have an agreed process under way with Computacenter to consider which products offer a viable solution against the counci's business requirements."