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38% of Government Professionals Are Using Open Source: Are You?

In our recent GovLoop survey we found that 38% of government professionals are using open source software at their agencies at a basic level. What benefits has leveraging open source brought these agencies? And what’s standing in the way of agencies taking their open source strategy to the next level? We asked these questions and interviewed those on the cutting edge of open source in our new guide, Agency of the Future: Open Source.

We surveyed 233 government professionals and found the majority of respondents agree that moving to open source can offer agencies a multitude of benefits. When we asked respondents to identify the advantages of open source, each of the following were selected by at least 60% of respondents: improved efficiency and productivity, the thought leadership of the open source community, and ease of information exchange. Additionally, survey respondents shared that open source is most often the best way to leverage other critical technologies such as big data, cloud and mobile.

Read the Guide Below Online or Download PDF

With the opportunity open source presents, why did only 20% of respondents rely on open source to meet agency needs? 60% of respondents cited that their biggest obstacle to an open-source based strategy is a lack of education.

That’s one of the reasons we published this guide. This report cuts through the hype to clarify how open source can transform your agency and prepare your operations for the future. Lack of knowledge should not stand in the way of reaping the benefits of open source


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Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of open source solutions, using a community-powered approach to provide reliable and high-performing cloud, virtualization, storage, Linux, and middleware technologies. Red Hat also offers award-winning support, training, and consulting services. Learn more here: http://www.redhat.com/solutions/industry/government/

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Dick Davies

Open source gives the opportunity to develop solve new problems using mature code, is much faster than developing from a blank screen and allows more customization for less cost.

David B. Grinberg

This is an interesting, practical and valuable resource guide that’s a must-read for anyone interested in leveraging open source technology.

Thanks Kathryn to you and the GovLoop staff for providing another awesome resource for IT knowledge enhancement.

Earl Rice

Convincing DOD, VA, and Homeland Security to go to open source will be the true testing of if it can be viably sold. These 3 agencies make up almost 60% of the employees in the Executive Branch. NASA, one of the agencies cited, makes up .4%.

The #1 concern for DOD, DHS, and VA is unauthorized intruders into their systems. And, all 3 of these Agencies have so much capital wrapped up in their current systems, I just don’t think there is the purchase money (and retraining money) to support changing to any new systems, open source or otherwise.

Small cabinet Agencies might be able to pull off going to open source. And, small non-cabinet agencies might. But with the magnitude of the big 3, I just don’t see it happening.

Mike van der Kamp


Rread your report “Agency of the Future: Open Source” – I find it super intersting and overall a very good and acurate report: congratulations.

One point I disagree with is about the cost: your Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) will be more expensive than whn using an adequate proprietary solution.

In our administration (French ministry of Financs), we can noticethat you displace costs from one budget to another: you might spend less on licenses, but a lot more on professional services.

Example: a correpondance mangement solution for 100 users – Using an opensource solution, you will require about 200 mendays to customize and define the different processes. Using a proprietary solution, the customization will take only aboout 100 days (maybe even less).

Open Source Proprietary
License cost $ 0 $ 70000
Professional Services $ 200000 $ 100000
Total $ 200000 $ 170000

Further, using a proprietary system you pay an annual maintenance fee which automatically provides you with technical support and bug fixes. with Open Source, since most of your requirement are programmed, you (or your integrator) will be doing the technical support and the bug fixing.

In Europe, we are aware of it, but public administrations accept this because the money spent on services stays in the country, as opposed to proprietary software where the money often goes to another country.

Pat Fiorenza

Thanks for all your comments. Mike – your insights are super interesting on how you tally an accurate TCO. Can for sure see how in some cases you would actually be displacing, and others reducing. Thanks for sharing your story.

Mike van der Kamp

Here are 3 examples with their TCO. Note: the budgets are rounded, and even if the numbers seem relatively large, there are not exagerated.

1) HELIOS: an open source based accounting solution to manage 160,000 public administration accounts (regions, cities, public schools, libraries, hospitals, shelters, school cafeterias, …). These accounts generate roughly 550 million justifications a year. Helios allows each entity to upload their daily ledger, recognise their revenues, and generates the daily, monthly and annual balance sheets for each of them.

The Project started in 2004, became operational in 2008, and was finalized in 2011. TCO: 1.1 billion euros ($ 1.4 billion).

2) In 2007, the Ministry sarted a federal accounting system based on SAP called CHORUS. CHORUS’ TCO is slightly over 1 billion euros ($ 1.3 billion).

3) In 2008, we started an archivng solution to archive all the ministry’s documents – ATLAS. Atlas archives all the justifications generated by HELIOS, CHORUS, HR, and other systems. It can index 300000 documents per hour and has a 7 peta storage facility. ATLAS is originally based on a propriatery software license.

The hardware was very expensive (starting such a project today would obviously make use of a cloud), around $200 million, and the cost of development for ATLAS was around $3 million (including 5 years of software maintance).