University project uncovers benefits of free software

Published 4th July 2012 at 4:16pm

A university project studying the benefits of using ‘open source’ computer software in the public sector has inspired the LEP to modernise its website.

The University of Sheffield has been working with twelve partners from across Europe on a project which studies the advantages of using free ‘open source’ software in the public sector.

The Europe-wide project group is called ‘Open Source Software Usage in European Public Administration’, or OSEPA for short. A recent survey by the project group, which targeted European Public Administrations, found that despite a high 85% awareness of open source, the software was not being widely used.

The project group has reported that as a result, organisations could be missing out on benefits of open source software which include lower costs, greater independence from expensive contracts with software suppliers and greater flexibility in making the software fit their specific needs.

The Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership has strong links with the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, through Professor Mike Holcombe, who is also Chair of the Creative and Digital Industries Sector Group.

Mike said, “With much of Europe currently experiencing acute fiscal problems, maximising value for money in IT departments in the public sector has never been so important.

“However, organisational inertia and culture, lack of technical expertise, security, and integration to existing systems, are standing in the way of public administrations taking advantage of the benefits of open source software.”

Inspired by the work of the University of Sheffield with the OSEPA project group, the Sheffield City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has recently launched a new version of its www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk website, built using free open source software. This has allowed the LEP to create a more technological advanced website than had previously been possible, whilst saving hundreds of pounds on unnecessary contracts with software owners.

Open source software is often developed publicly and collaboratively with many people worldwide contributing to the development of a product. Thousands of websites are now being developed using open source software such as WordPress and Joomla.

There are already some very high profile open source examples in circulation such as Mozilla Firefox and sites such as Amazon and Facebook also use high proportions of open source software. In addition, there are many less well-known examples, such as Libre Office and the Ubuntu operating system which can provide users with free alternatives to Microsoft Office and Windows.

The OSEPA project is financed through the European Regional Development Fund, which aims to work together to share experience and good practice in the areas of innovation and the knowledge economy to contribute to economic modernisation and the increased competitiveness of Europe.

To learn more about the activities and outputs of the OSEPA project, visit www.osepa.eu

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