FOSS fight in the UK

Last fall a slightly ambitious project to test the uptake of Ubuntu Linux in the volunteer community of eastern England showed positive results, so why has the funder pulled the plug?

The East of England FOSS in the VCS web site gives lots of details on the success of the project, but here are some highlights. 10 desktop computers using Ubuntu Linux were distributed to VCOs in the East of England Region for testing and evaluation. The programs they included in the assessment were, Evolution, Firefox, Scribus, Project Planner and GnuCash.

In general, the results of the testing were positive. However, problems with integration with their Windows networks, with training and with technical support dampened the results. The biggest negatives came from managerial staff who “often considered that they had invested so much money on technical support and solving past problems that they felt that moves to Linux would be a waste of the money already spent”.

The study authors recognized a few key points from the study which included that long term technical support issues were a major concern, the switch to FOSS seems to be a more popular move when considering new systems, i.e., if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and management were motivated more by saving money than by any political considerations. But in the end the authors noted “From the experiences of the overall East of England FOSS in the VCS project, not just the Linux on the desktop project, it is clear that FOSS use by the VCS can be a viable and extremely cost effective alternative to proprietary software”.

So that’s all interesting, but the funders of this study, the ICT HUB seemed to take a dim view of the results and are pulling their funding for this type of study. This has resulted in a bit of a debate given such high profile figures as Shadow Chancellor, George Osbourne, estimated that the British government alone could save more than £600 million a year if it used more FOSS. See previous post “Open source, terrorism, politics and Zen”.

Chris Bailey from the East of England FOSS in the VCS project wrote a great open letter to Nicola Thompson Head of ICT Hub making a valiant defense of the FOSS world that seemed above and beyond the small test, but is a fight that is obvious to anyone who has ever paid any attention to the FOSS movement. Check out the letter and the stats... very good stuff.

The reply from Nicola was not so convincing and one wonders just what is really going on? She made the statement that ICT HUB would focus on, “developing the market place” as opposed to supporting FOSS. Dare I speculate where such a business acumen came from... well I won’t and I’ll leave it up to you all.

This will be my last post for a while as I am off to Europe for a much needed extended stay and I will be out of internet (phone and TV) reach for most of my time in Tuscany and Venice and traveling too much to get the time to post. I will be back in a couple months and hopefully with some interesting views on what’s happening in the EU with the free stuff.

Thanks very much everyone for reading and commenting. I and Free Software Magazine appreciate it.




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