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Re: [edlug] Donateing CD's to Edinburgh Council

From: "David Marsh's listreading hat" <lists2004@xxx.xxx.xxx>
To: edlug@xxx.xxx.xxx
Subject: Re: [edlug] Donateing CD's to Edinburgh Council
Date: Sun, 25 Jan 2004 12:00:29 +0000

On Wed, 21 Jan 2004 01:49:48 -0800 "Bob Kerr" <robertnkerr@xxx.xxx.xxx> wrote:

> As part of an Open Source Awareness program, I am going to donate a > copy of the LendingCD and a copy of TheOpenCD to every Edinburgh City > Councillor. There are 58 Councillors in all and I am going to write a > letter concerning the lending CD in libraries project.

Another excellent idea, Bob! :-)

> I am also willing to include a letter from Edlug. The only problem > that I see is how does Edlug as a group write a letter. The letter > must have a fixed and easily accomplishable goal for the council and > if possible should be signed by the members.

> An accomplishable goal would be something like sending the marketing > pdf about Openoffice to council employees or even just the > Personel/human resources department.

Wouldn't this be better going to the IT section of the Council?
I wouldn't have thought that the Personnel section would have any say on
the software in use?

I think that it is unlikely that any major change would take place within the council. What I am mainly aiming for is an awareness in the council that there is a choice. That choice can can be then looked at within the council, for the council employees home computers, for Schools and any other area's that they are connected to. Say for example that we requested that OpenOffice or TheOpenCD be made available from the Personel department for Council employees. This is accomplishable. It can also be explained in two paragraphs which is about the full attention span of the councillors that will be reading the letter.

I don't know whether Councils get to choose their own IT solutions or
whether perhaps they thrash out some kind of Scotland-wide arrangement
through the likes of CoSLA or under some centralised requirement of the
ScotExec? That may be a sticking point.

Be warned, though, Councils are _very_ bureaucratic, and the wheels of
change move very very slowly. (I once worked within (not for, I hasten
to add) a Council and although I _needed_ full internet access for my
job, I wasn't "allowed" to gain internet access through their network
connection as I wasn't 'important'/senior enough (ooh, the petty rules
of hierarchical bureaucracy), so after a couple of weeks of stagnation
it was eventually agreed that I should just plug in a modem and use
dialup instead <sigh>)

I suspect that the most useful approach towards gaining favour for OSS within the Council would be to highlight pre-existing major switchers, (eg City of Muenchen, Peruvian Govt) and in particular any government agencies that have changed in the UK, and, especially, Scotland (if there are any). There's a (US) site governmentforge(.net?) which may be of interest.

The key persons to get involved would be the Councillor with
responsibility for IT (there will be some Council Committee that has IT
within its remit) and any Councillors who actually have any
understanding of IT issues(!) (and who are pro-OSS, rather than slavish
M$ weenies) and are able to act as levers for change. Without support
of that kind, it is likely to be very difficult to make progress,

Useful leverage could be gained through supportive MSPs (eg, the Greens:
Lothians MSP Mark Ballard is also particularly enthusiastic about OSS)
although Councils are notorious about not having their senior brethren
and sistren in the Parliament tell them what's good for them :-(

I am glad to see that MSPs are taking an interest. Local councillors are elected too so we can directly ask them for help, they work for us. If we can point out a feasible goal that can save money we may be able to spark an interest. Then we could have Local government and Government working together. For example my local councillor was the person who helped me get the CD's into the Edinburgh libraries. (He is in the SDLP)

Excuse me if I'm stating the obvious, but key points to make are of massively reduced licensing costs (ie, better value for the council tax payer and allowing funds to diverting to more pressing needs (eg, fixing potholes in Edinburgh's dreadful roads), the quality of software (increased reliability) and the interoperability and openness of the document formats- and especially how the use of open document formats allows govt agencies to disseminate information to the widest possible audience in a way that W0rd doesn't (ie, social inclusion).

A key objective to suggest to the Council to aim for would be to propose
that all(non-HTML) documents on their website be available for download
in the appropriate open/OpenOffice format: W0rd-only is unacceptable.
..and also that they make their website(s) standards-compliant and
browser-neutral (their planning portal barfs on non-IE browsers for
example), as failure to do so effectively denies citizens access to
information that they are legally entitled to.

Incidentally, did you (or anyone) ever send out 'formal' press releases
about the library distribution: I'm sure it's the kind of thing that
The Herald/sundayherald/Scotsman/SoS/BBCi would be interested in running
with if they haven't mentioned it already..? The fact that you managed
to get OSS available in most libraries in Scotland is pretty newsworthy!

I have actually already been on National Public Radio in America and there is a possiblility of an article in one of the broadsheet papers. That has yet to materialise. There will be more publicity on the way. If Edlug can persuade Edinburgh council to let their employees get copies of OpenOffice for their home computers then that would be very worth while because it could be easily replicated by other councils. It would also enable the council to test the software without any large expenditure to their own network.

Something like this would also make it easy for a general acceptance to all Edlug members.

These are just my idea's, I understand your point of view and I look forward to hearing more thoughts and idea's





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