Open source software is gaining ground fast, with major companies around the globe using the technology from Facebook to Google and more. Over the past four years, there has been a 140% increase in the use of the technology and more than 2,000,000 open source projects are expected to take place this year – twice as many as in 2012.
And as open source platforms become more popular in the private sector, these changes have crossed over into the public sector as well. One of the biggest change agents in these exciting times of the federal government over the last few years has been the adoption of open source software.
Case in point: the EEOC.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is charged with enforcing laws against discrimination in the workplace. The agency receives over 20,000 new cases each year and has over 2,100 employees at its headquarters and 53 field offices.
At a recent technology conference, Kimberly Hancher, the commission’s chief information officer, shared some of the EEOC’s challenges with its first generation web-based system – the Integrated Mission System (IMS) – which is written in Oracle.
Though the system is the closest thing the agency has to a case management system, it is really little more than a database of action codes.
“With no workflow or digital storage of files and documents associated with a charge, the agency depends on hard copy charge folders,” Hancher explained. “We offer no electronic filing or other electronic transactional capability over the web, except Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.”
The EEOC wanted a new, open source platform that allowed federal agencies to electronically submit data, which would in turn facilitate faster response times and streamline agency processes.
But first, they needed to debunk some myths about open source technology.
“There’s a lot of open source software out there that is available free to use, and the government is using a lot of it, sometimes without even knowing it,” said Hancher. “A lot of agencies believe that there is no support for open source, so they aren’t using it – even though the software may be a good fit.”
The EEOC wanted something that was proven, affordable, easy to implement, fully supported, and could be used both in the cloud and on-premise. And, perhaps most importantly, they wanted freedom from “vendor lock in,” Hancher said.
Ultimately, the agency chose a combination of open source solutions from various providers for web services, forms and letters management, reports, code repository, regression testing and more.
Hancher highlighted some benefits of open source, from the EEOC’s perspective:
- Low cost to evaluate the complete product. “We were able to use the enterprise edition to test functionality before committing to buy, with limited support for 60 days,” she said.
- There are many technical forums that provide answers to the development team at no cost – and these community folks respond very quickly.
- No additional cost for non-production usage like development and testing.
- Support is subscription-based.
- CPU-based annual support subscription with unlimited users.
The EEOC has launched its new open government-to-government system (FedSEP), which allows federal agencies to electronically submit data to the EEOC. The agency is in the process of building new government-to-citizen applications for public-facing, self-service systems and a digital charge processing system to provide integrated web-based solutions centered around case management.
The primary goal of these solutions is to provide self-service options to users, reducing their dependence on interacting with the agency’s workforce.
You can view Kimberly Hancher’s presentation HERE.