To my knowledge I am the only elected representative within Australia to use Linux and open source software such as KDE, Kontact, Openoffice.org and Firefox for my day-to-day computing requirements.
I choose to use Linux and open source software since I find it more responsive and stable than a Windows based system. Linux is an open source operating system that is available in various forms known as distributions.
Linux and the majority of software that operates on it are provided free of charge and are designed as well as supported through active community participation.
While there is undoubtedly a learning curve when trying anything new, Linux distributions such as OpenSUSE and Kubuntu tend to be extremely user friendly. Linux support for hardware continues to increase and there are many free programs that can easily replace existing Windows based software.
In addition, Linux tends to not have the security and virus issues that are far to commonplace within a Windows based environment.
While Linux and open source software may not be for everyone, I believe there is tremendous opportunity for the non-profit and community sector to investigate the use of Linux within their organisations.
The free cost of Linux and associated programs combined with the fact that it can still easily and efficiently operate on older computer hardware means it has the potential to reduce IT costs.
While there may be a requirement for initial training and configuration, this can be offset by reducing the cost of purchasing new software and hardware.
Free software such as Openoffice.org provides an easy to use Office suite and is largely compatible with Microsoft Office. Mozilla Firefox provides a more secure Internet browser than Internet Explorer and Kontact provides a full suite of information services, including a calendar, notes, email and address book features.
Linux provides a choice of graphical desktop environments and KDE with its associated applications exceeds the features and stability found within Windows XP and Vista. XFCE is another desktop environment and is well suited towards older computers that may still be present within an organisation.
If there are Windows based programs that an organisation is reliant upon, there is a program known as WINE which can allow such software to still operate within Linux.
I recently switched from OpenSUSE to Arch Linux, which is a distribution designed to be highly flexible and customisable. While Arch Linux requires more time to customise than other distributions, it does have the advantage of being extremely fast and stable.
The use of Linux with its potential to reduce IT costs is certainly worth exploring.