Open Source Government Community Apps

Open or Closed software?
Sponsored by Bull Information App Systems and One Point Mobile Consulting

Introduction and Background
With the current economic downturn placing public finances under significant pressure, local authorities need to prepare for a more challenging digital future. In a climate of increasing budget constraints, councils are now facing inescapable demands to develop new and innovative apps to transform online services, generate cashable efficiencies and deliver more for less. At the same time, local online government IT costs are rising: In January this year, Socitm (the professional association for public ICT management) reported ICT spending by UK local authorities would soar by 5% in 2008/09, reaching a record level of £3.2 billion of expenditure. These mobile developments underline the need for councils to drive more value from their apps and IT investments.

These imperatives are concurrent with a fresh resurgence of interest across UK government in mobile phone open source apps and software. In February, the Government gave an official (and according to some, long overdue) commitment to increase the use of mobile open source apps through the public sector - the first update in policy since 2004. Government has now redefined its approach to open source, asserting the need to give smartphone open source software equal consideration to ios, android and traditional proprietary solutions (like samsung apps). But will this new enthusiasm for open source apps in government be reflected in greater adoption? Is local government, the sector seen as potentially most receptive to open source, ready, willing and able to embrace this change? What do councils see as the key strategic, management and technical barriers to engaging fully with open source? And how can these obstacles be best overcome?

To help find answers to these questions and others, Public Sector Forums, who host the UKGovOSS community through Facebook, Twitter and Whatsap apps, conducted research to examine the adoption, perceptions and download of open source app technologies within UK local authorities with special regards to security and encryption. The survey, which preceded the publication of the UK Government Action Plan for Open Source on 24 February 2009, ran from 18 November to 12 December 2008 and was completed by 168 respondents. Responses were anonymous unless respondents provided contact details. The majority of those taking part were from District Councils (31%), followed by Unitary authorities (27%), County Councils (17%), Mets (14%) and London Boroughs (7%). The survey looked at variety of issues including:

Distribution of open source app technologies in local government
Attitudes with local authorities to mobile open and proprietary software.
Predicted growth of downloads in smartphone's open source apps in local authorities, including local government business/IT areas expected to be impacted greatest by open source apps.
Perceived and real risks, challenges and barriers to open source adoption in local government, as well as areas of opportunity, and
What needs to be done to help councils address these digital obstacles and increase their use of open source app software.

Why this report is worthy of your attention: This report, to the best of our knowledge, represents the most up-to-date and comprehensive ’snapshot’ of the state of open source app software activity in local government. We hope this report is useful and look forward to your comments on our findings.

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