The home affairs department has taken the government's commitment to open source software to heart, with plans to install the Linux operating system at its 635 foreign missions, border posts and local offices.

The department will install Novell's SUSE Linux operating system in one of the biggest Linux projects ever conducted by the government. Novell's GroupWise software will be installed on top, giving its users e-mail, calendaring, instant messaging, task management, and contact and document management features.

Government supports the use of open source as an alternative to proprietary fee-bearing software wherever possible, because open source programs carry no licence fees and can be adapted by users to suit their needs.

"Linux and open source are massive priorities for us," said Kgabo Hlahla, the department's deputy director-general of information systems. "Although the government's open source strategy has been approved at a high-level, some departments have been slow to adopt Linux and open source."

The project should serve as proof of the value of Linux for other departments, he said.

"We need 'follow the sun' technology, since wherever the sun goes, a home affairs official wakes up with the intent of rendering a service," Hlala said.

"Our officials need access to information and communications capabilities at their fingertips. Since we are also dealing with confidential information, security is a key priority."

The project will cover 435 branch offices, 60 border posts and 120 foreign missions. It will connect 7500 employees to e-mail and collaboration services this year, and reach 11000 employees next year. Management and auditing of the system will be centralised to lower costs and strengthen security.

The department will use two companies, NetCB and Shimo IT, to install the software locally. Other Novell resellers will be used for the work abroad.

Business Day