Cork City Council to increase open source use in IT projects

26 Oct 2012

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Cork City Council is to expand its use of open source software, focusing initially on projects for CRM and content management.

The council is focusing on two projects to begin with, using the Alfresco content management system for a proposed collaboration site where council staff and outside agencies could work on documents without needing to use FTP servers. SugarCRM is earmarked for a water services project in the city.

The choice of these two applications was deliberate, as it’s intended to dovetail with a wider local government strategy for open source. 

SugarCRM runs the household charge system and the Local Government Management Agency [LGMA] is understood to be planning several business and ICT initiatives involving shared services powered by open source.

Aidan O’Riordan, systems analyst with Cork City Council’s IS operations, confirmed that the council is undertaking the projects in a way that will be compatible with open source work that will be carried out by the LGMA and the Local Government Efficiency Review Group.

The council’s network comprises 60 sites, some 800 staff, as well as 120 PCs and laptops in public libraries throughout the county. It uses an equal mix of 60 physical and 60 virtual servers.

Why open source?

Cork City Council already uses some existing open source applications and servers and is looking to build on that. To date, open source at the council had been restricted to operational applications, like network monitoring solutions or list servers rather than end-user applications, O’Riordan said.

“Since then, there have been a couple of drivers: obviously the downturn in the economy and a reduction in the budget we would have, and also the national ICT strategy for local government specifically mentions open source and that it should be examined as an option. The third one is, open source has certainly over the last few years become more prevalent and proven in terms of enterprise applications,” O’Riordan told Siliconrepublic.com.

To maintain service levels for its end users, the council issued a tender for a specialist company to provide additional support to the IS department for the open-source projects. It received two bids, and this week the winner was announced: Cork-based Emerge Business Development.

The council hopes to have two projects delivered by Christmas or early in the new year. “Our initial impressions with Alfresco is that it’s early says but the product looks good and looks as if it will deliver what we want. Phase one is collaboration and in phase two we may look at it from the point of view of a document-management solution,” said O’Riordan.

He confirmed Alfresco will be rolled out in an on-premise format rather than by a pure cloud model. Web-based tools, such as Dropbox, weren’t considered because when national strategy was being developed, it identified some issues around location of data and document integrity, O’Riordan said.