Political party turns to desktop Linux

The South Australian Democrats party has rejected a A$50,000 (US$34,500) content management system from an unnamed vendor for its new Web site in favour of the free PostNuke open source system.

Legislative Council member Ian Gilfillan said he expressed “shock and horror” when he was told of the A$50,000 price tag.

“I immediately said we don’t go down that path,” Gilfillan told Computerworld. “The selection process then seemed to happen quickly and we are very happy with the quality of the package.”

The Democrats also considered other open source CMSs including MySource and Zope but PostNuke best suited the primary task of getting news releases online.

Gilfillan conceded there was “a lot of integration work” with PostNuke but “it was achievable” and was done in-house.

“A commercial package would still have (had) integration work,” Gilfillan said. “We’re not rolling in money and are happy to save A$50,000 as PostNuke didn’t cost any extra.” Gilfillan is adamant that the functionality of PostNuke is on par with that of a commercial package and is not concerned about possible lack of support. “We had involvement with (hosting company) Reynolds Technology and there is plenty of information on the Internet,” he said.

When the Democrats found that PostNuke could be included as part of a bundle of services provided by Reynolds Technology a decision was made to go ahead with it.

In addition to South Australia, the WA Democrats and the Democrats Carter Network — an online news and community portal for the Democrats, have also deployed PostNuke.

The SA Democrats now plan to invite vendors and host a forum within state parliament on how open source works.

“It’s a softening up exercise,” Gilfillan said. “A forum to promote open source as an alternative technology to colleagues and representatives from the public and private sector for a half-day. Novell is mostly involved and is keen to be part of it. So it has legs.”

Gilfillan’s office has installed a Fedora (the core of Red Hat) Linux desktop, which he described as an “attention getter”.

“The Parliamentary Network Support Group (PNSG) has approved of and is assisting in getting this going and (its people) feel persuaded by the unit in the office,” he said. “We’ve got to work away at the PNSG’s concerns. Then I will approach local parliamentary organizations to encourage uptake.”

Gilfillan said the desktop space won’t be “won overnight” as there is concern by some people who don’t want to risk getting into new territory.

“In South Australia more than 200 people regularly access the parliamentary network’s computers plus some 50 research people,” he said.

“Parliament House is not part of the South Australian whole of government outsourcing contract, and is a separate entity. Members of parliament don’t have hands-on (experience) but staff see it as really an option.”

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