Consolidation enables open source software strategy‏

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When the Legislature and the Governor approved the consolidation of Oklahoma’s state information technology infrastructure, they created a series of opportunities for cost savings and efficiency. Many of those involved in the approval of the policy probably did not even begin to realize the many different ways these opportunities would present themselves. Here is just one example that only scratches the surface:

During the 2009 legislative interim study, the Government Modernization Committee held hearings on the application of open source technology solutions. When the Legislature approved the first round of IT consolidation legislature, we also authorized the Chief Information Officer to include an open source component in his initial study of the state’s IT infrastructure. Open source applications are applications whose source code is not proprietary. The uses of these applications does not require licensing through one of the major software providers. In other words, these applications are free to use and distribute.

The 2009 study highlighted the state’s current use of open source. We found that there were several innovative uses of open source applications. For example, the Oklahoma State University Fire Training program uses a flexible and fully customizable application that takes advantage of the open source MySQL database. The Department of Commerce built the state’s business one-stop registration process using an open source scripting language. The Oklahoma Geological Survey’s Observatory uses the open source Linux operating system to operate the computers at its south Tulsa county observatory. The agencies are saving taxpayers thousands of dollars by avoiding the licensing fees that accompany the non-open source counterparts.

These are certainly the exceptions to the rule. An agency director will probably hesitate to authorize open source due to his fear of not being able to properly support the software. He may feel safer to simply pay the licensing and any accompany software support fees to the software companies. In order for the open source model to work, the agency must have confidence in their IT personnel to provide the support necessary to deliver a safe and effective product to the taxpayers. Not everyone has this luxury.

All of this changes with the recent consolidation of IT personnel. Now, the agencies have the enormous benefit of being able to draw down on the expertise of a consolidated enterprise-wide IT operations. Before, IT personnel were siloed into their respective agencies. This meant they were unlikely to be made available to help other agencies. Someone with expertise with MySQL, PHP, Apache, OpenOffice/LibreOffice or Linux might be stuck inside an agency that didn’t use open source.

This made no sense! If someone were purposefully trying to design a system to sabotage state government and cost taxpayers unnecessary money, they would design the system that has been in place up until now.

In the current system, an IT person who is an expert in open source is now free to help all agencies, and can greatly cut costs to the taxpayers by providing support to open source applications throughout the entire state government.

In my view, the state’s centralized IT operation should use this excellent opportunity to deploy a significant number of open source solutions throughout state agencies. This will save the taxpayers thousands of dollars of unneeded licensing and support fees.

State Representative Jason Murphey

2300 North Lincoln Blvd

Oklahoma City, OK 73105

1(405) 557-7350       (Office)

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