NZ open source trial attracts gov't attention

New Zealand District Health Board (DHBs) trials of an open source desktop will be carefully watched by other government agencies, keen to reduce the licensing fees they pay to Microsoft.

In turn, the DHBs will be represented on the public sector committee negotiating the details of G2006, the next iteration of the government's bulk-licensing agreement with the vendor.

Negotiations begin in June, says Laurence Millar, director of the e-government unit, which is taking the lead for the Government agencies.

"We're pleased the Wanganui District Health Board is doing the pilot," he says. "We should get out of it some facts about operational issues that will be helpful in the negotiations."

Millar says the pilot will be about the strengths and weaknesses of the respective software, not about the environments.

"We're starting to put together a Government [negotiating] team now."

The health boards estimate they will pay over NZ$20 million (US$14.3 million) in licensing fees to Microsoft during the three years of the current G2003 licensing agreement.

The Wanganui pilot will seek to establish how many users there are with just basic computing needs and whether it is possible to meet those with a non-Microsoft environment. It will be based on Suse Linux and OpenOffice.org.

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