Open Source Software Use in Local Governments

Open Source Software Use in Local Governments

Sean M. Bossinger (Florida International University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-282-4.ch027
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Free, libre, or open source software (FLOSS) offers the promise of cost-free, modifiable, high-quality software, for a multitude of tasks (e.g. desktop operating systems, office suite applications, graphics manipulation packages, etc.). Given that this software is free in terms of cost and ability to modify, we should see its widespread use throughout public administrations whose limited budgets generally give rise to the need to find ways to cut costs wherever possible, while simultaneously providing ever expanding ranges of services to their constituencies. However, we find open source software’s use at the desktop and application level rather sparse. We look at 3 specific cases of open source software use: one for provision of local e-government services, a case where a small municipality has applied open source software within a desktop environment, and a case where a large city government has embarked on the wholesale replacement of the operating system and office application suite of an entire city’s implementation of desktop workstations.
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In this digital age, more and more members of the administrative and professional class are tasked with the responsibility of working with ever-greater numbers of, and increasingly more complicated, technologies to accomplish their day-to-day jobs. A glance at many of the Public Administration job postings on-line will give you the picture: Help Wanted! Must have working knowledge of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Word! Microsoft Excel knowledge desired! But what are these job postings really asking for when they say this? Are they asking for knowledge of specific applications? Or are they asking for a broader knowledge, one that can be elusive to many: the ability to get along well with technology, no matter what brand, while simultaneously getting along well with people, both their coworkers and their constituencies.

As cities are increasingly being required to account for every dollar they spend, and to show returns on investments in unprecedented ways, information technology departments in a few cities worldwide are becoming highly innovative. Some, like Andy Stein’s Information Technology department of Newport News, Virginia, are collaborating with other local governments around the world to produce eGovernment portals through which their citizens can access government resources. While most IT departments went the decentralized route of the Personal Computer, others, like Harold Schomaker’s department in Largo, Florida started following a centralized model that allows them to flourish with just over half the support staff of similarly-sized cities, while being innovative with their approach. Still others, like the city of Munich, Germany, are investing today in a complete replacement of their desktop environment to ensure their constituents the highest standards in privacy while still being able to keep costs as low as possible and guarantee functionality.

The secret to each of these innovative moves is the judicious use of open source software – software that the information technology administrators in each of these communities can review for holes that may lead to breaches in privacy. Software that allows custom-tailored development to provide workflow management that fits like a glove. Software that frees agencies from the ever-circular cycle of: Buy expensive hardware, apply expensive software, get more expensive software to assure security, upgrade, repeat.

Yet as Corine Stofle says in her September 7, 2006, article regarding open source software on the Government Technology website: “… agencies nationwide are still slow to get onboard. According to Hammersla, a recent study by Shawn McCarthy, a senior analyst at the research firm IDC, shows that only 12 percent of government agencies are using Linux, and the projected increase for 2009 is a mere 3 percent. These statistics seem to indicate a lingering hesitation to try open source.” (Stofle, 2006)

While the software is oftentimes free, or at substantially low cost, there is a price involved in migrating to the freedom afforded. Sometimes, as you will see, those costs can be minimal. Sometimes, those costs are potentially prohibitive. Yet the cities you will read about here all made the decision that the investment in cost and time in the migration would be well worth the effort.

To start, we offer an introduction to the world of open source software. Through this introduction, foundational explanations are made on what the concept is, why it doesn’t always mean free as in cost, and what some of the benefits and hidden costs are to adoption. Next, we proceed to describe what the major factors are in considering software “purchase” decisions, and provide reasons for why open source should rightly share in the process. Then we consider two sides of the same debate, in a treatment of the right of governments to know what their software is doing with their private data versus the right of companies to maintain the privacy of their intellectual property. Next, we describe how three municipalities have implemented open source software for very different reasons. Finally, we wrap up with a conclusion, where we offer our thoughts for the future.

Key Terms in this Chapter

eGovernment: The provision of governmental services (tax payments, permit pulling, etc.) via a website or other electronic means.

OSS/FOSS/FLOSS: Open Source Software, Free Open Source Software, Free Libre Open Source Software (respectively).

Proprietary: Of or pertaining to a closed nature, typically in order to protect intellectual property.

Open Source: Source code of computer programs that can be reviewed openly by those skilled in the language in which the computer program is written.

Webserver: A computer server specifically used to serve web pages, either internal to an organization (intranet) or to an outside population (extranet, or Internet).

Content Management System: A webserver-based system used for managing content to be presented to consumers of the content. Typically allows for this by individuals who are not familiar with the technical workings of website design.

Customizability: The ability of a piece of software to be customized to suit a particular need.

Interoperability: The ability of computer systems, software, and organizations to function together to provide a set of services.

Linux: Open source computer operating system originally developed in 1992 by Linux Torvalds, and now developed by many thousands of contributors. Can be used to run desktop computers, laptops, servers, and supercomputers.

Portal: A typically-World Wide Web based system that allows for multiple services on multiple servers to be accessed from a single website.

File/Print Servers: Computer servers and their related storage mechanisms that allow for information storage and printer connectivity via networks.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book:
Table of Contents
G. David Garson
Christopher G. Reddick
Christopher G. Reddick
Chapter 1
Vishanth Weerakkody, Gurjit Dhillon
Most public services are overly complex, and separate where citizens have no choice in the service that they receive. All too often, Information and... Sample PDF
Moving from E-Government to T-Government: A Study of Process Reengineering Challenges in a UK Local Authority Context
Chapter 2
Tino Schuppan
This chapter addresses the link between e-government, organizational networks related to it, and the possibilities for structural reform of... Sample PDF
Local Level Structural Change and E Government in Germany
Chapter 3
Stephen King
This chapter describes a journey through e-enabled local public services. We start with the familiar local government Web site and contact centre... Sample PDF
Innovation and Citizen-Centric Local E-Government
Chapter 4
Krassimira Paskaleva-Shapira
This chapter shares experience on aspects related to the methodology and modeling of a framework of City E-Governance Readiness. We discuss Europe’s... Sample PDF
Assessing Local Readiness for City E-Governance in Europe
Chapter 5
Mark Deakin
The chapter examines the IntelCities Community of Practice (CoP) supporting the development of the organization’s e-Learning platform, knowledge... Sample PDF
The IntelCities Community of Practice: The eGov Services Model for Socially Inclusive and Participatory Urban Regeneration Programs
Chapter 6
Sarah Cotterill
In the United Kingdom and throughout the world there is increasing emphasis on public sector organizations working together in local partnerships.... Sample PDF
Local E-Government Partnerships
Chapter 7
Ian McLoughlin
In the United Kingdom, major investments have been made in e-government in order to modernize government and improve the efficiency and quality of... Sample PDF
Towards Digital Governance in UK Local Public Services?
Chapter 8
Bryan Reece, Kim Andreasson
There has been considerable attention given to the issue of unrepresentative access; however, research to date has focused on individual level... Sample PDF
Institutional E-Government Development
Chapter 9
Tina Jukic, Mateja Kunstelj, Mitja Decman, Mirko Vintar
In this chapter, 3 main aspects of municipal e-government in Slovenia are investigated thoroughly: supply, demand, and the view of municipal... Sample PDF
E-Government in Slovene Municipalities: Analysing Supply, Demand and its Effects
Chapter 10
Lourdes Torres, Vicente Pina, Basilio Acerete, Sonia Royo
This work tries to assess to what extent e-government enables transparency, openness and, hence, accountability in public administrations. For this... Sample PDF
E-Government and Accountability in EU Local Governments
Chapter 11
Stephen K. Aikins
A Comparative Study of Municipal Adoption of Internet-Based Citizen Participation Sample PDF
A Comparative Study of Municipal Adoption of Internet-Based Citizen Participation
Chapter 12
Janita Stuart, Val Hooper
The uptake of Internet voting for local government elections is still in its infancy worldwide. While it holds many potential benefits, there are... Sample PDF
Sociological Factors Influencing Internet Voting
Chapter 13
Sonja Knapp, Yun Chen, Andy Hamilton, Volker Coors
Urban Planning is a multi-disciplinary process. Social-economic, environmental and natural resources issues need to be considered to ensure urban... Sample PDF
An ePlanning Case Study in Stuttgart Using OPPA 3D
Chapter 14
Jennifer Evans-Cowley, Maria Manta Conroy
Municipalities often struggle to provide citizen participation opportunities that are informative and engaging. E-government tools hold the... Sample PDF
Local Government Experiences with ICT for Participation
Chapter 15
Michael J. Jensen
This chapter analyzes the “impact” of information and communication technologies (ICTs) on local government officials’ policy decision-making.... Sample PDF
Electronic Democracy and Citizen Influence in Government
Chapter 16
Yu-Che Chen, Ashley Dorsey
To meet the current and future senior citizens’ demand for e-government, local governments will need to have a better understanding of their needs.... Sample PDF
E-Government for Current and Future Senior Citizens
Chapter 17
Don-yun Chen, Tong-yi Huang, Naiyi Hsiao, Tze-Luen Lin, Chung-Pin Lee
This chapter introduces a case of e-deliberation in Taiwan. Democratic deepening can be achieved by the application of information and communication... Sample PDF
Experimental E-Deliberation in Taiwan: A Comparison of Online and Face-to-Face Citizens' Conferences in Beitou, Taipei
Chapter 18
Greg Streib, Ignacio Navarro
The development of e-government has attracted considerable scholarly interest in recent years, but relatively little has been written about the... Sample PDF
City Managers and E-Government Development: Assessing Technology Literacy and Leadership Needs
Chapter 19
Zhenyu Huang
This chapter presents a comprehensive analysis of the 3,099 U.S. counties’ adoption and diffusion of e-government and the functions provided by... Sample PDF
U.S. Counties' Efforts and Results: An Empirical Research on Local Adoption and Diffusion of E-Government
Chapter 20
Suzanne J. Piotrowski, Erin L. Borry
Government websites are quickly becoming the first point of contact for citizens and visitors seeking information. Local government websites’... Sample PDF
Transparency and Local Government Websites
Chapter 21
Marc Holzer, Aroon Manoharan
The chapter is based on the results of an international survey of municipal Web portals conducted through a collaboration between the E-Governance... Sample PDF
E-Governance and Quality of Life: Associating Municipal E-Governance with Quality of Life Worldwide
Chapter 22
Mete Yildiz
This chapter presents an analysis of local e-government adoption and implementation in Turkey. To this end, academic articles, various laws, and... Sample PDF
An Overview of Local E-Government Adoption and Implementation in Turkey
Chapter 23
Bekir Parlak, Zahid Sobaci
This chapter aims to evaluate the e-government practices in metropolitan municipalities in Turkey by determining functionality levels of... Sample PDF
The Functionality of Website-Based Services of Metropolitan Municipalities in Turkey
Chapter 24
Patrizia Lombardi, Ian Cooper, Krassimira Paskaleva-Shapira, Mark Deakin
Harnessing ICTs effectively is one of the main vehicles for achieving the EU’s 2010 strategy to become the most competitive digital knowledge-based... Sample PDF
The Challenge of Designing User-Centric E-Services: European Dimensions
Chapter 25
Raoul J. Freeman
This chapter reviews various strategic frameworks for e-government which include goals and objectives. Among typical goals are the following... Sample PDF
Goals Measurement and Evaluation of E-Gov Projects
Chapter 26
Jussi S. Jauhiainen, Tommi Inkinen
Finland is among the leading information societies. The national information society strategy aims to make the information society accessible by... Sample PDF
E-Governance and the Information Society in Periphery
Chapter 27
Sean M. Bossinger
Free, libre, or open source software (FLOSS) offers the promise of cost-free, modifiable, high-quality software, for a multitude of tasks (e.g.... Sample PDF
Open Source Software Use in Local Governments
Chapter 28
Mark Cassell
This chapter examines empirically, the intended and unintended consequences that occur when a local government chooses to migrate away from a... Sample PDF
When Local Governments Choose Open Source Technology
Chapter 29
The Wireless City  (pages 554-568)
Sukumar Ganapati, Christian F. Schoepp
In this chapter, we explore the evolution of wireless broadband networks in cities. We examine the technological alternatives for city-wide... Sample PDF
The Wireless City
Chapter 30
Paul M.A. Baker, Avonne Bell, Nathan W. Moon
This chapter presents the results of an examination of the current state of U.S. municipal wireless network design and policies with regards to... Sample PDF
Accessibility Issues in Municipal Wireless Networks
Chapter 31
Roland J. Cole, Isabel A. Cole, Jennifer A. Kurtz
The key reason for including this chapter in this book is that the development of more advanced forms of e-government requires that residences have... Sample PDF
Municipal Efforts to Promote Residential Broadband
Chapter 32
Jenni Viitanen, Richard Kingston
This chapter will discuss the implications of the network society paradigm for e-government and the role of ICTs in the regeneration of urban... Sample PDF
The Role of Public Participation GIS in Local Service Delivery
Chapter 33
Terry Murphy
Geographical Information System (GIS) technology applications for use in the field of economic development are relatively new. Local economic... Sample PDF
GIS: Changing the Economic Development World
Chapter 34
Paul T. Jaeger
Many residents and local communities rely on public libraries for access to and training to use e-government. Many local governments direct citizens... Sample PDF
Public Libraries and Local E-Government
Chapter 35
Muhammad Mustafa Kamal, M. Themistocleous
Literature indicates that Local Government Authorities (LGAs) have problems in meeting citizens’ demands. This may be attributed to the limitations... Sample PDF
Investigating Enterprise Application Integration Adoption in the Local Government Authorities
Chapter 36
Jeffrey Roy
This chapter will compare the emergence of e-government in Denmark and Canada with a particular emphasis on the municipal and inter-governmental... Sample PDF
Enterprise Application Integration; Healthcare Organizations; Information Technology ; Large Organizations; Local Government Authorities
Chapter 37
Genie N.L. Stowers
This case describes the case of a small California city, San Carlos, a continued early adopter in the e-government areas. The chapter asks the... Sample PDF
The Little City That Could: The Case of San Carlos, California
Chapter 38
Howard A. Frank
ActiveStrategy’s performance management application deploys the widely utilized Balanced Scorecard framework in a dashboard platform designed to... Sample PDF
Implementing ActiveStrategy in Miami-Dade County
Chapter 39
Greta Nasi
The purpose of this chapter is to assess the current status and level of technology in providing on line services among larger Italian... Sample PDF
E-Government and Local Service Delivery: The Case of Italian Local Governments
Chapter 40
Andreas Ask, Mathias Hatakka, Åke Grönlund
This chapter discusses practices, opportunities, and challenges in local e-government project management by means of a case study involving... Sample PDF
The Örebro City Citizen-Oriented E-Government Strategy
Chapter 41
Ik Jae Chung
As a nationwide e-government project in South Korea, the Information Network Village project was launched in 2001. It was designed to increase... Sample PDF
Toward E-Government Sustainability: The Information Network Village Project in South Korea
Chapter 42
Samiaji Sarosa, Jenjang Sri Lestari
This chapter examined the state of Jogjakarta’s local governments Web sites (i.e, Bantul, Sleman, Kulon Progo, City of Jogjakarta and The Special... Sample PDF
The Level and Impact of Web Based E-Government Adoption: The Case of Jogjakarta's Local Governments
Chapter 43
Maniam Kaliannan, Hazman Shah Abdullah, Murali Raman
Despite the many quarrels and complaints about the quality of local government in Malaysia, it continues to be an important part of the overall... Sample PDF
Local E-Government in Malaysia: An Empirical Investigation
Chapter 44
Sam Lubbe, Shawren Singh
This chapter explores the issues of the interface between Information Systems (IS) and society. We investigate IS and users of these systems at a... Sample PDF
From Conception to Demise: Implications for Users of Information Systems in Changing a Local Parastatal Educational Institution in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
Chapter 45
José Rodrigues Filho, João Rodrigues dos Santos Junior
E-government has the potential to enhance democracy and transparency, increasing opportunities for citizen interaction. Literature has given many... Sample PDF
Local E-Government in Brazil: Poor Interaction and Local Politics as Usual
Chapter 46
R. K. Mitra, M. P. Gupta, G. P. Sahu
While Information Technology (IT) is being embraced by various wings of the government, the police in India have however, been slow to adopt IT. The... Sample PDF
Indian Police E-Government System: A Study of Provincial Police
Chapter 47
Arla Juntunen
There are still only few studies of the cooperation and collaboration of the governmental agencies and local authorities. This chapter presents a... Sample PDF
Joint Service Development with the Local Authorities
About the Contributors