Using open source has set the city of Limerick (Ireland) free to modernise its organisation. The city merged several isolated department front-desks into one modern customer centre, with the customer relations management system and other open source solutions greatly improving service levels.
Not encumbered by the limitations of proprietary licences, Limerick could customise applications to fit the city’s needs as many times as needed, explains Mihai Bilauca, head of Limerick’s Digital Strategy and Customer Service department: “It gave us the confidence to aim high, as we were not incurring major IT costs.”
The money saved on licences and related IT services was used for process improvements and staff training, Bilauca said. Moreover, the transformation has been undertaken during difficult economic times. “Having access to software solutions, allowed us to plan ahead knowing that we could afford to implement the technology solutions required by the organisational change”, he said.
Bilauca was one of the speakers at a conference on open source, open standards and open data. The conference in Dublin was organised by the Office of Public Works and the Local Government Management Agency.
Limerick’s customer centre, opened in 2013, merged the front desks at for example the departments for environment, utilities and roads. Customers would face these front-desks in isolation, and the departments, using different IT systems, could not cross-reference their information with other departments.
Limerick now uses enterprise open source solutions including the Drupal content management system, SugarCRM, document management system Alfresco, with GeoServer for providing geospatial web-applications and the LibreOffice suite of office productivity tools .The IT department combined these open source solutions to provide an integrated back office system, and extended this with mobile app for reporting litter, graffiti, and buildings that are in need of repair. “For a smart city, open source and open standards are essential”, Bilauca said.
“Now we we have all information at our fingertips”, Bilauca said. “We can cross-reference housing maintenance information with with our housing grant-applications. We can link inspections, enforcements, permits, grants, fines and court-cases.”
The system also improved access control, and lets Limerick comply with data protection rules. “Previously information would be lost in silos; now we can audit our data to improve the work-flow”, Bilauca said.
Additionally, the data is used to get insight on how to improve services. The data shows how much time is needed to resolve requests, and which channel is used most to contact the city. “Email is the second most-used channel, after telephony”, Bilauca said. That helps us invest in better user-experience, choosing between physical space, or in digital tools.”