Gnome and eGovernment
Many governments are rolling out "eGovernment" programs to allow citizens and corporations to interact with the government electronically. Unfortunately, many of these programs make the assumption that everyone is running Windows and Internet Explorer. GNU/Linux, BSD, Apple, and other operating systems are often ignored. Advocacy is need to remind governments that not everyone uses Microsoft products, and that good eGovernment services are written in a cross-platform way.
Please add your experiences here!
Should Government Require You To be a Microsoft Customer?
- The point of eGovernment is to make it easy for citizens to interact with their governments. Imposing arbitrary requirements subverts this goal.
- Cost-conscious companies often install Linux to reduce operating costs. Forcing them to buy Windows from Microsoft decreases their competitiveness.
- Web-based services make it easy to support many different operating systems. eservices that force vendor-lockin at the client are a sign of poor design.
- The most technically-savvy users in a country are also those most likely to have a non-Windows operating system. Non-Windows users are not a minority that should be ignored.
- Philosophically, democratic governments shouldn't tell citizens what operating system they must use!
Amazon.com, FedEx, and thousands of other organizations can deliver electronic services to customers, without forcing them to be Microsoft customers. Why should governments aim lower?
Why Would Governments Want To Use Free and Open Source Software?
Many civil servants are unaware of the advantages of using Free and Open Source Software ("FOSS") internally. FOSS is actually very well suited to government use! Some advantages:
Archiving. The use of well-defined open standards for data formats helps ensure long-term archiving. Will anyone be able to read Corel Envoy files 20 years from now? Or Word 5.0 files? Don't count on it!
Accessibility. The major FOSS projects (like Gnome) have extensive accessibility, internationalization, and localization capabilities, making it easier to support diverse client bases and minority languages.
- Repurposing. Open data standards make it easier to repurpose information (e.g. print, Web, search...)
- Cost Control. Fees for FOSS are typically much lower (sometimes zero!) than proprietary solutions, and are usually determined based on the level of support needed, rather than licensing fees.
- Overall Control. Using FOSS allows you to keep control over core technology, and to use trusted software. You are not locked into secret vendor-specific code.
- Security. Open source code can be audited by your security experts, at any time. If you find a problem, it is usually easy to communicate directly with the software authors.
2006 Canada Census
Statistics Canada did respond to complaints that free and open-source software (FOSS) users were not able to use the online census reporting tool.
Current Windows-Only Services
Canadian Automated Export Declaration (CAED)
Statistics Canada requires exporters to report all exports to non-US destinations. The Canadian Automated Export Declaration (CAED) program is provided for this purpose. The client software is a Windows-only program that communicates with government servers. It is probably MS Access based. Non-Windows users are told to get a separate computer with Windows on it, or fill out the paper forms.
The European Union's Seventh Framework Programme for research and technological development (FP7) requires that grant agreement preparation forms be edited using a Windows only application. So if you want a research grant from the European Union, you're forced to be using Windows.