SITA pushes open source adoption in South Africa


Government policy on open source software use exists, but it still has a lot of work to do, says the State IT Agency (SITA). This follows its signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (Fossfa) to promote the use of free open source software in government.

Pumeza Ceza, manager of Foss advocacy at SITA, says the agency has prioritised assisting the government with its drive towards using open sourced software and fostering greater acceptance and use of free and open source software.

“The work that Fossfa has done - its various activities, certification programmes and work on policy - showed us it was best to use a bigger body. Right now we are looking at improving the open source policy and leverage on what we have already worked on.”

Ceza adds that a plan of action has been drawn up and the two organisations will focus on improving three key areas: policy, capacity-building and institutional support.

Daniel Mashao, CTO of SITA, says the MOU will promote the increased use of open source software among government departments, and increase the skills and capacity to introduce and manage open source software locally.

“We can, through the use of open sourced software, save the government money in terms of licensing fees, but furthermore foster the development of IT skills and, in particular, IT development skills in open source software in SA.”

Ceza notes government departments are migrating to open source solutions, but they still need assistance with skills development, and software and migration support from SITA.

“At a workshop on Foss implementation, held recently, we asked departments about their work and we found that over 90% of departments are working towards implementing Foss. There are a lot of initiatives going on and we found that most government departments' back-end systems are running open source.”

According to Mashao, a number of government departments are already at an advanced stage in introducing open sourced software into their departments. He notes that Seaparo Phalo, CIO of the Department of Arts and Culture, says his department is already at an “advanced stage of migration to open sourced software”.

Mashao adds the department has already migrated its mail servers, several desktops and business systems to Foss. In addition, pockets of migration are in progress, both in the national archives and national film archives sections, and all of the boardrooms already use the open source facilities.

The National Library of SA, which is partly funded by the Department of Arts and Culture, has also fully migrated its desktops to Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise, Mashao says. He adds that the Department of Science and Technology has also indicated it has progressive plans for back-end migrations, as well as other open source initiatives.