The State Information Technology Agency (SITA) and the Free Software and Open Source Foundation for Africa (FOSSFA) have signed a memorandum of understanding to promote the use of free open source software (FOSS) in South Africa – and, in particular, among government departments.
Daniel Mashao, chief technology officer of SITA, says the two organisations plan to increase the use of open source software among government departments and increase the skills and capacity to introduce and manage open sourced software in South Africa.
"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 South Africa," he says.
According the Mashao, a number of government departments are already at an advanced stage in introducing open sourced software into their departments.
"At a recent workshop between government CIOs and decision makers, Seaparo Phalo, the chief information officer of the Department of Arts & Culture, informed us that his department is already at an advanced stage of migration to open sourced software."
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 their National Archives and National Film Archives sections.
"All of their boardrooms use the open source facilities," says Mashao.
The National Library of South Africa, which is partly funded by the Department of Arts & Culture, has also fully migrated its desktops to Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise (SLED).
Mashao says the Department of Science & Technology has also indicated that it has progressive plans for back-end migrations as well as other open source initiatives within the department.
"When we surveyed individuals at the workshop, 94% of the respondents said they were either very keen or keen to implement FOSS. However many indicated they need assistance with skills development and software and migration support from SITA."
Mashao says the partnership with FOSSFA will allow SITA to ensure it can assist and help the government with its drive towards using open sourced software.
"Together we can ensure that we mobilise efforts to build an enabling environment and foster greater acceptance and use of FOSS in the region."