Ubuntu at Parliament of Zimbabwe

www.parliament.gov.zw

Background

Parliament of Zimbabwe is situated at Corner Third Street and Kwame Nkurumah Ave in the capital city, HARARE.

The Challenges

The institution has been using Information and Technology infrastructures for the past 15 years, but the challenge has been software licensing. This was however, resolved by the Introduction of Open Source software, i.e. Ubuntu 8.04. Parliament is using both the Server (4 Servers) and Desktop (100 Desktops and 2 Laptop computers).

In 2008 Parliament had about 180 personal computers and 50 laptop computers running various versions of the Windows operating system. Most of the operating systems were not fully patched due to limited connectivity to the Microsoft repositories internationally located. Both the servers and the desktops were prone to regular attacks by viruses and Trojans as budgets to license our anti-virus solution were limited, released too late for the upgrades to be purchased or were not available at all. The mail and web server were on a machine running RedHat Linux which was compromised several times.

The ICT department could not live with these challenges and had to find a way around them.

Ubuntu Solution

In line with its vision "To champion the integrity of Parliament regionally", Parliament decisively agreed to champion the use of Free and Open Source Software within Government and in Parliaments both regionally and internationally. In 2008 The ICT Director, Ganyani Khosa, started looking for the best and most reliable free and open source product for desktops and servers. He decided on Ubuntu and joined a group of ICT professionals who are equally driven by the passion for having software freely accessible – the Ubuntu Zimbabwe Loco Team. In his own words, Ganyani says, "I never regret having made this decision. Parliamentary business will never be done the same way as this technology enables us to do more work, deliver more information to more people as we work smarter and with near zero percent down time."

With much zeal and enthusiasm, the ICT Director took the Free and Open Source initiative to the World e-Parliament Conference held in Brussels, Belgium in November 2008. He made a presentation on the use of Open Source Software in parliaments. Most parliaments agreed that the route Zimbabwe was taking was the best and urged the Parliament of Zimbabwe not to look back on this initiative.

Parliament decided to install Ubuntu 8.04 Desktop on one hundred Personal computers and two laptop computers. The Mail & Proxy server, the Information & Document Management server and the Library System Server were installed with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS Server. The fourth Server to be installed with Ubuntu 8.04 LTS is running as a Parliament Ubuntu Repository Server providing local mirroring of the Local Repository hosted by Yo!Africa. The rest of the laptops and desktops are being gradually installed with Ubuntu 8.10 desktop.

We took the initiative further and trained Women Parliamentarians in March 2009 using Ubuntu 8.10 desktops. The hands on training, meant to introduce women parliamentarians to the various uses of computers, was a re-sounding success and gratitude goes to the sponsors SADC PF with special mentioning going to Cecilia Matanga, the Programme Coordinator.

We also established an Internet Café within the Parliament for Members to have access to full internet services. Members are comfortable with the new Desktop.

Since we are training our Members and Officers of parliament in large numbers, we are hoping to establish ourselves as the first institution to be accredited to offer OpenICDL in Zimbabwe ahead of major training institutions (public, private and commercial alike).

Result

Teresa Kamvura (Parliament ICT Manager) sums up what happened at the Parliament of Zimbabwe by saying "With the main advantage of being free and legal software, Ubuntu proves unaffected by viruses and very stable. In our administration of the Parliament ICT environment where movement of files from person to person and computer to computer is high, Ubuntu manages to rise to the challenge. Since we operate on a streamline budget, this has been the best cost effective measure that we have achieved. Our network is 95% on hardware running free and open source software. The cost of software did not hold us back from delivering a world class ICT experience to Parliament of Zimbabwe users and Legislators, thanks to open source and free software."