World e-Parliament 2008 Report (Ubuntu Zimbabwe)

Neil Coetzer nit006.5 at
Wed Dec 3 10:30:45 GMT 2008

Below is the report submitted to me from the ICT Director of the
Parliament of Zimbabwe on his presentation given at the recent
e-Parliament Conference in Brussels. The Parliament of Zimbabwe have
chosen to use Ubuntu on their desktops, and very possibly on their
servers too, and the ICT Director is also a member of the Ubuntu
Zimbabwe LoCo Team.

                           Summary report on

           Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) Presentation

 by Ganyani Khosa (ICT Director – Parliament of Zimbabwe) to the World
                    e-Parliament Conference held at 

             the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium 

                        from 25-26 November 2008

The Global Centre for ICT in Parliament already knew that the Parliament
of Zimbabwe was advocating Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) in
automating its processes. As a result they requested that I do a
presentation outlining the business case for the migration to FOSS. Two
other parliaments have also opted to use FOSS for their operations,
namely Italy and France, and my presentation followed immediately after
that of France.

The final PowerPoint presentation is available on request. 

A number of African parliaments showed interests in the presentation
including Ghana, South Africa, Malawi and Tanzania. 

The following questions were asked among other issues that were

     1. Challenges in migrating calendars (MS Outlook as well as those
        created using other proprietary software). Parliament of
        Zimbabwe argued that migrating in general is not a major
        constraint since there were no shared calendars in use.
        Parliament will have to use the calendaring system built into
        the FOSS.
     2. Challenges importing documents done by very old versions of MS
        Word and MS Excel especially those with nested tables and
        multiple formulae. Most documents in Parliament are not complex
        and can be easily and comfortably migrated.
     3. Italy presented that cost cutting should not necessarily be the
        biggest motivation for migration because major savings cannot be
        realized in the short term but probably in the long term. This
        raised the question of affordability in that those countries
        with good budgets can afford the licensing and purchase of
        proprietary software where as those with skinny budgets (such as
        most African countries) tend to have other priorities (hunger
        relief, HIV/AIDS interventions, Health, etc) and the purchase
        and licensing of software is usually sidelined. Parliaments in
        such countries, therefore, will pirate software. The Parliament
        of Zimbabwe weighed the risk of pirating against the few issues
        that could be raised against FOSS and decided to go the FOSS
     4. Challenges relating to training/re-training Officers of
        Parliament and Members of Parliament in the use of the FOSS.
        Parliament submitted that there is a huge difference in the
        appearance of Office 2007 and earlier versions of Office in such
        that Parliaments that opt to migrate to Office 2007 will
        certainly have to re-train. By comparison, the appearance of
        Open Office is not too different from earlier versions of Office
        to the extent that it might be easier training for OpenOffice
        than for Office 2007. Having said that, Parliament of Zimbabwe
        has the added advantage of having just come out of general
        elections meaning most of the Members of Parliament are new and
        will require training. Their training will, therefore, include
        ICT training. The Officers will also be trained along with the
        Members of Parliament.

In the end, it was realized that FOSS is the way to go for Parliaments
in countries that operate on thin budgets. Given that there is a lot of
community support and certainly a FOSS equivalent for most desktop
applications, most African countries should consider FOSS for their

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