A district council claims to have saved £120,000 by choosing Sun Microsystem's free Star Office suite over Microsoft products for its e-government projects.
Penwith District Council in Cornwall is spending £3m upgrading its systems. Next month it will go live with the first part of the project, 260 Sun Ray 100 and 150 appliances running Star Office, Netscape Navigator and Messenger, iPlanet calendar and bespoke council applications.
The systems are supported by a server farm of three Sun Enterprise 450s, five Sun Fire 280Rs and two Netra T1s. This replaces PC and dumb terminal systems.
"The majority of users don't need Microsoft software and it's far more cost effective not to have it. Star Office offers all the functionality. If we had done the cheapest Microsoft option, it would have cost another £150,000 for operating systems and office software licensing," Andy Mann, head of IT at the council, told vnunet.com.
Jim McKenna, chief executive of the council, said: "I am sure many other councils will be considering this type of solution in future, especially in light of recent announcements of licensing changes.
"This will help make services more accessible to local people in rural areas with poor transport and that's really important. It will also help us make better use of our staff."
The council will use the new Cornwall smartcard to access the system, as well as local services such as parking and libraries. The next stage will be to e-enable the rest of the council's systems.
"By September 2004, we will be fully e-government compliant through the partnership with Sun," explained McKenna.
"The government has given authorities £200,000 a year for two years for e-government and that's peanuts - for big authorities it's much more. What we've been able to do won't be open to everybody and there is a serious lack of government funding for this," he added.
Cornwall will also soon have broadband access, and the council is keen to attract new companies into the area. "If we are seen as an e-government trailblazer that will give us more credibility," said McKenna.
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