Norway Pledges Funds for Government Open Source Usage
Norway has become the the latest country to pledge funds for public sector use of open source software. Minister of Government Adminstration and Reform Heidi Grande Roeys is granting 2 million kroner ($285,000) to the national center for free software, and the terms of the deal are interesting. Instead of general promotion of open source software, the funds are specifically earmarked for adopting and promoting use of the OpenOffice suite of productivity applications in government offices. While $285,000 probably isn't going to shake Microsoft down to its roots, the company has to be watching this development closely.
Norway happens to be the exact same country where Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer offered students free copies of Microsoft's developer tools in September. The Register attributed that decision to Microsoft's contention that it "has lost a generation of developers who might have embraced Windows and .NET, thanks to the Mac and open source frameworks and operating systems."
Ballmer met with Norway's prime minister and education minister while putting the free software program in place. It gives students in Norway free copies of Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition, SQL Server 2005 Developer Edition, Microsoft Expression Studio, and XNA Studio 2.0.
Clearly, though, Norway's government isn't jumping completely on the proprietary bandwagon. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Heidi Grande Roeys said:
"I want to simulate increased competition in the market for office software. OpenOffice is a good alternative to the supplier owned programs in this area. "The problem is that the specialized programs and OpenOffice don't always give optimum performance together. The grant is to solve that."
Increasingly, European and Scandinavian countries are taking this type of stance, and it is benefitting open source. For example, we recently made the point that the emulation of Microsoft SharePoint in Alfresco's open source enterprise content management platform is completely due to mandates about openness that the European Union levied on Microsoft. Let's hope we see more of this support for openness from governments large and small.