Govt embraces open source

Paul Vecchiatto
By Paul Vecchiatto, ITWeb Cape Town correspondent
Cape Town, 22 Feb 2007

Government today committed to open source implementation within its departments. It also delivered several other statements concerning ICT.

At the Cabinet media briefing in Parliament today, government said it had approved a policy and strategy for open source implementation. It added that all new software developed for, or by government, will be based on open standards, and government will migrate current software to open source.

"This strategy will, among other things, lower administration costs and enhance local IT skills," said the Cabinet statement.

Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko said, in reply to a question, that the process would probably be a lengthy one. He noted that a project office would be set up by April, by the Department of Science and Technology, with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and the State IT Agency.

The Cabinet statement said all major IT vendors in the country have supported the initiative and made contributions to the development of open source.

Digital migration

This week, Cabinet also approved the digital signal TV migration plan, with the start date set for 1 November 2008, with a three-year dual illumination period due to end on 1 November 2011.

Cabinet also approved the retention of sufficient frequency spectrum, or broadcasting services. This will provide for new TV channels earmarked for specialised services, and three regional services channels that would cater for three channels each.

Maseko said the Department of Communications would make further statements about the digital migration strategy and the new TV channels sometime in the future.

Soccer guarantees

The Cabinet statement also said government would meet its 2010 Soccer World Cup communications guarantees. It noted that a service provider would be appointed to provide adequate telecommunications for the transportation of signals to and from the stadiums.

It also said a second Sentech teleport will be built to provide the satellite link as backup for the telecommunications infrastructure.

Cabinet said an International Broadcast Centre would be established for the World Cup, which would serve as a legacy project for the generation of local content beyond the event. However, Maseko could not confirm if this was merely Cabinet's wish, as the location and technical specifications of the centre rest with Fifa, the world soccer governing body.

Maseko said there was some general feeling within government and Fifa that the centre should be located on the coast as it should be in close proximity to an undersea cable landing site. Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban are vying for the centre to be located within their cities.

Finally, Cabinet has also approved the creation of a partnership with ICT non-governmental organisations, to be called the Information Society and Developmental Intergovernmental Relations Forum. This is part of the National Information Society and Development Plan, aimed at building an inclusive information society in SA.