Norway throws weight behind open source

Norwegian Minister for Modernization Morton Andreas Meyer is asking all government institutions in the sparsely populated Nordic country to have a plan in place for the use of open-source software by the end of 2006.

Without referring specifically to Microsoft Corp., Meyer, who is responsible for the Norwegian government’s IT policy, said earlier this week at a news conference in Oslo that “proprietary formats will no longer be acceptable in communication between citizens and government.”

Meyer referred to the “spreadsheet almost everyone uses” and said this would be the last time he made a presentation available on the Net with proprietary media software.

The comments Meyer made at the conference, which focused on an initiative to digitize communications between citizens and government, were confirmed by ministry spokesman Jan-Egil Nyland.

The initiative calls for a massive restructuring of IT in Norway’s public sector, both at the national and local level. In addition to the use of open source, one of the goals is to provide all citizens with their own home page for communication with the government. In the process, every Norwegian citizen will be provided with a personal electronic ID as a replacement for the numerous user IDs and passwords currently used.

“We plan to offer everyone a home page by the end of this year,” Nyland said.

While not entirely abandoning Microsoft entirely, several European governments, including Germany, France and the U.K., have introduced programs to support the use of open-source software, particularly the Linux operating system, in the public sector.

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