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Governments across the world want to save money, indeed they need to save money. At the same time they seek to achieve urgent transformation and reform in their organisational structures - a process that often requires new information systems and data infrastructures.

In the area of information systems and data management the opportunity to acquire new systems within tight budgets or to make operational savings for established systems are limited. One major opportunity however seems to be on offer: to shift to the use of open source software and reap the direct benefits of lower software costs and further indirect benefits such as greater adherence to open standards, more choice of vendor and service supplier, and working to establish flexible incremental architectures. Initiatives in many countries reflect these policy ambitions, including across Europe, in the USA and in the BRIC countries.
One way to validate the wisdom or credibility of such a policy is by careful attention to the costs associated with using open source software as compared to more conventional or established alternatives. The usual conceptual model applied to this is that of "total cost of ownership‟ or TCO.

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