Over 500 German government agencies using open source

One year after the German Federal Ministry of the Interior agreed to a partnership with IBM to supply open-source software on new computers to federal, state and local governments as well as other government agencies, more than 500 groups have signed up for the service.

On Wednesday, Minister Otto Schily referred to the agreement during a news conference in Berlin 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 in a statement released at the conference. "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 GmbH, 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 AG in Nuremberg, Germany.

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 licenses and thus free up capital to modernize IT infrastructure in the government in sector," he said in the statement.

But Schily, signaling continued support for Microsoft in the public sector, said 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 but rather as 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.

The new guidelines, based on several open-source pilot projects, will present various steps and measures that ministry IT experts view as essential for open-source software to be deployed successfully in the public sector.

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