In the latest blog of our series centred on the adoption of open source within the public sector, we take a look at the issue of quality and how OS software has the potential to deliver better results than many proprietary systems - despite media coverage to the contrary.
Myth 2: Open source means poor quality
Aside from scepticism over security levels, a key barrier to open source adoption within the public sector is the misconception that the software is of poorer quality than its proprietary counterpart; that OS code is buggy, less robust and inappropriate for public sector application. There is a concern amongst many IT managers that open source projects are poorly written. It comes back to the old adage of “you get what you pay for”, so given that open source in itself is relatively low-cost, the compromise must surely lie in its level of functionality? Wrong. For public sector organisations, open source actually presents the perfect solution for reducing financial outlay, without a reduction in quality.
A recent industry article encapsulated this perfectly with the statement that ‘independent scrutiny by members of the open source community outside the business means code tends to be of higher quality… it is human nature that a developer, knowing the code is going into the public domain, is likely to submit cleaner code’. Open source code tends to be created by software professionals and academics, with projects constantly being tweaked and refined to ensure the best end product.
Those against the adoption of open source within the public sector are often quick to point out that the free licence to use the software lacks any kind of official support contract. Technically this is true, but just because a support package isn’t included by default, it doesn’t mean that support isn’t available. Of course, specialist agencies such as Ixis can be brought in to ensure an infrastructure is effectively maintained, but the open source ecosystem runs worldwide, so the potential for assistance is huge. Having multiple sources of support can often be preferable to being tied to a single vendor (as is the case with proprietary systems), as it leads to better levels of service.
As the article from Public Sector Executive quite rightly points out, open source generates a level of engagement and passion amongst developers that, in itself, drives faster results, better quality and innovation. For public sector organisations looking to engage in digital transformation, this is exactly what is needed.