Iceland goes open source in a big way

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Iceland has a bit of a history when it comes to using tech in innovative ways. In 2011, for instance, it crowdsourced its new constitution using social media. Now the mid-Atlantic island wants to take a number of government departments open source.

According to project leader Tryggvi Björgvinsson, the migration project will involve the three biggest public institutions in Iceland: all of the ministries, the city of Reykjavik and the National Hospital. “These are setting a good migration example”, he says.

The migration will reportedly be done with as much uniformity as possible. Björgvinsson believes that, “This will foster collaboration between public institutions, IT service providers and the free and open source community in Iceland.”

In order to kick of the migration, a series of five letters was sent to all the heads of public institutions, recommending for instance the use of open standards and pointing to examples that ease the move to free and open source.

The project also has backing right from the top. According to a post from the Prime Minister’s office:

The government of Iceland has agreed on a policy regarding free and open-source software. The policy states, among other things, that when purchasing new software, free and open-source software and proprietary software are to be considered on an equal footing, with the object of always selecting the most favourable purchase.

The government also appears to be invested in making sure that the next generation of young Icelandics are equipped for open source.

“We are also making sure that in our public schools, the national curricula does not restrict the use of free and open source software,” says Björgvinsson.

“This school year, 2011-2012, two new secondary schools moved their systems entirely to free and open source software, bringing the count to five out of 32 schools,” he added.

If fact, the majority secondary schools in the country are already running Moodle, an open source course management system.

Just to make sure the migration works a “groups of specialist [sic] has been formed that will monitor the project, aiming to prevent future failures”.

If the project works it has the potential to save the country — re-emerging from a severe financial crisis — a substantial amount of money. It could be a very big ‘if’ though and if it goes wrong, the migration programme could be seen as a waste of scant resources.

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